Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said that training programmes have been put in place to raise awareness about health and safety issues among workers participating in the Overseas Employment Programme.
The move comes in the wake of the deaths of two farm workers from a job-related accident in Ontario, Canada in September 2010.
The Labour Minister, speaking in the House of Representatives on Jan 31, informed that workers have been instructed not to undertake duties, which may endanger their safety unless they are provided with the proper equipment and safety gear.
He noted that the literacy level of workers is also of paramount importance in ensuring their safety and urged those persons, who wish to be part of the programme, to ensure that they prepare themselves adequately.
“We have found that many persons applying to participate are not sufficiently literate and numerate,” he stated.
The Minister in the meantime, informed that families of the deceased farm workers have been fully compensated.
Autopsies revealed that Ralston White, a 37-year old father of two from Pike District, Manchester; and Paul Roach, 44, a married father of Milk River, Clarendon, died from environmental suffocation. They were overcome by toxic fumes while attempting to fix a malfunctioning vat on the apple cider farm where they worked.
Mr. Kellier informed that C$15,000 was paid to each family under the Ministry’s Liaison Service Insurance Plan. Lump sums of more than C$ 100,000 were paid to both families by Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WISB), with monthly payments to be made, and provisions for the children.
In addition, Mr. Kellier revealed that charges were also laid against the operators of Filsinger’s Organic Foods and OrchardsFarms, where the men were employed, and the courts have imposed a fine of C$22,500.
“This incident has raised concerns in Canada regarding the safety of migrant workers. As a result, a vigorous regime of Occupational Health and Safety inspections has been instituted,” he said.
He noted that even though the families have been financially compensated, the money could not substitute for the loss of their loved ones. The Ministry, he said, has continued to provide psychological support to the families through regular visits and interventions by trained social workers.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter