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Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Pearnel Charles, has said that the proposed Occupational Safety and Health Act will protect the welfare of workers and safeguard businesses by ensuring that employers put the necessary health and safety measures in place.
“The legislation will be very strong. Health, safety, and security at the workplace will be guarded by (this) legislation,” the Minister stated, noting that it will also serve to position Jamaica as an attractive investment option.
He was addressing the inaugural staging of the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica’s (AMCHAM) Health, Safety, Security and Environment Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Wednesday (July 15).
The Act, which is being drafted, comes against the background of conditions deemed unsafe by the Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Department (OSH) at some 3,000 entities, mainly factories, which it monitors islandwide.
Minister Charles, said that these establishments need “effective systems and regulation to protect workers and property” and reduce chaos.
“People … value a good work environment. When disorder and chaos reign, when the environment is not good, people are injured or fall ill, and just revolt at work, (creating) a perfect environment for industrial disputes and strikes. It lowers production and creates an environment in which the management and workers are hostile to one another,” the Minister argued.
He said that while the legislation is being pursued, companies will be encouraged to join the Ministry’s Voluntary Compliance Programme, in order to gain assistance in establishing safety and health programmes within their establishments. This, he added, will create the platform to facilitate the provisions of the legislation, when it comes on stream.
“Additionally, we must recognise that external factors in the global environment can have a major influence on managing chaos at the workplace. An organisational culture, beliefs and norms could allow for the appropriate response or the lack thereof,” Mr. Charles pointed out.
The conference, held under the theme: ‘Managing Chaos’, was staged to update the island’s chief executive officers, and human resource, safety, security, and environmental professionals, about the latest developments in their fields, both locally and regionally.
President of AMCHAM, Diana Stewart, said the forum followed one staged in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year, and was held against the background of the varying health, safety, security and environmental issues currently facing Jamaica.
The conference featured presentations from a range of speakers including: Senior Medical Officer for Special Projects, and Director of Emergency and Disaster Management and Special Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock-DuCasse; and Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson.