JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is making provisions under the proposed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill to protect employees who refuse to work in an environment that does not meet safety and health standards.
  • Acting Senior Legal Officer in the Ministry, Khadrea Folkes, in an interview with JIS News, said once a worker has been exposed to danger, he or she will have the right to stop working under the Bill.
  • Ms. Folkes advised however, that in exercising that right, the employer and other relevant parties must be made aware of the situation.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is making provisions under the proposed Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill to protect employees who refuse to work in an environment that does not meet safety and health standards.

Acting Senior Legal Officer in the Ministry, Khadrea Folkes, in an interview with JIS News, said once a worker has been exposed to danger, he or she will have the right to stop working under the Bill.

“A worker who is in a situation on the job where they perceive that they face serious imminent harm has the right to refuse to carry out (that activity),” she informed.

Ms. Folkes advised however, that in exercising that right, the employer and other relevant parties must be made aware of the situation.

“The worker has to ensure that the necessary parties are engaged or it is brought to their attention. The hazard must be indicated and the requisite personnel, whether within the organization or at the Ministry of Labour, called in to have that situation assessed,” she said.

The acting Senior Legal Officer also pointed out that while the employee may stop working in the dangerous situation, “it is not a day off.” She said the employee must still report to the workplace, “even though they are not carrying out the duties of the job because it is not safe.”

She added that under the Bill, workers will have a right to know the exact nature of the hazard they will face and be properly equipped to deal with it. This includes being provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is especially important for domestic workers who interact with dangerous chemicals.

She noted however, that employers will not be held responsible if workers do not use the safety equipment provided, or if they use them incorrectly after being taught how to use them properly.

Ms. Folkes also informed that under the OSH Act, aspects of the legislation will address how persons living with HIV and AIDS are to be treated in the workplace, so as to prevent discrimination.

“A worker is not to be separated from his employment on the basis of his HIV status. What should be relevant to the employer instead, is whether the employee is fit for work,” said the Acting Senior Legal Officer.

Since 2010 the Ministry has drafted a national workplace policy on HIVand AIDS. The policy highlights certain key principles which the International Labour Organization seeks to have observed in the treatment of HIV and AIDS in the workplace. Some of those principles include non-discrimination and non-screening for purposes of exclusion from employment or work processes.

The aim of the OSH Act will be to foster a safe working environment, while ensuring compliance with an outlined set of rules.