Jamaica is expected to have an Occupational Safety and Health Act by the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said the Government will fast track passage of the legislation in Parliament, once review of the draft Bill, which is with the office of the Parliamentary Counsel, is completed.
Speaking at the opening of a symposium at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus on April 25, Mr. Kellier said that passage of the Bill, that addresses improvements in workplace safety and health which, in turn, impacts productivity and quality, is critical as the government continues to invest in a safe working environment for all Jamaicans.
The Minister argued that in the last 50 years, “we have, as a country, made remarkable progress in the management of safety and health at the workplace. From the Factories Act, which was first enacted in 1943, to the present status quo, we continue as a country to be proactive and innovative in protecting our workforce”.
He said this is however becoming more challenging day by day, given that new and innovative production systems and technologies, occasioned by the ‘greening’ of the economy , are bound to give rise to new and robust issues.
“I am only too aware that in the green economy of the rapidly approaching future, the emphasis will be on renewable resources, which will mean the creation of new and innovative working conditions under circumstances in which the lives and health of workers will have to be safeguard in non-traditional occupations,” he said.
A green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.
The Minister pointed out that improving occupational health in Jamaica against the background of this greening, is key to achieving the objective of an environmentally-friendly society and ensuring sustainable economic growth.
Organised by the Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health (OESH) Programme of the UWI, the two-day symposium is being staged to promote health and safety in a green economy. It is also being held in recognition of World Day for Health and Safety at Work on Saturday (April 28).
The International Labour Organization (ILO) celebrates World Day for Safety and Health at Work to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health and on the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide.
Executive Director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, UWI, Professor Neville Ying, who chaired the event, said that in Jamaica, the focus on the green economy should be considered as a key strategy for economic growth, environmental protection, jobs, social protection and improved quality of life.
He said discussions should surround the role of safety and health in achieving sustainable development.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter