The proposed Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is currently being reviewed by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC), to amend contents of the draft, based on recommendations from the Attorney General’s office.
Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, who will table the Bill in Parliament, says the review aims to ensure that its provisions conform to stipulated legal requirements, when promulgated.
Thereafter, the Minister says, the draft will be submitted to Cabinet’s Legislative Committee for approval and then tabled for the commencement of debates in both Houses of Parliament.
The Minister made the announcement while addressing the opening ceremony for a one-day symposium, jointly hosted with the International Labour Organization (ILO), at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on April 26.
Mr. Kellier advised that when the Act is promulgated, the Ministry will give consideration to granting a grace period before implementing its provisions. This, he explained, is to facilitate private and public sector stakeholders with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the legislation and get clarifications, under the guidance of the Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Department.
“At the end of the period, it is expected that a review of the new legislation will be carried out to adjust and correct any anomalies or disparities that may arise,” the Minister informed.
Mr. Kellier said when enacted, the OSHA will put Jamaica on par with its trading partners as well as greatly assist in making the country more competitive and productive globally.
“What is (also) important to note is that the Ministry will now have the means…to ensure compliance with our national programme and the international conventions which we support, as signatories. The new and exacting Occupational Safety and Health legislation will enable us to improve working conditions and upgrade the well-being of our workforce,” he underscored.
Speaking with JIS News, Minister Kellier said while the Chief Parliamentary Counsel has not advised when his work on the draft will be completed, he is nonetheless optimistic that it will not be delayed.
He pointed out that based on the extent of work already undertaken and the “minor issues” that have been identified by the Attorney General’s office, “the CPC should be able to (address them) in short order.”
“This is why we are looking to have it completed very soon…very early in this fiscal year. It is the priority Bill on the agenda of the Ministry, and we have been promised that they will leave no stone unturned to let us have it very early,” the Minister said.
Mr. Kellier is also optimistic that its passage will not be delayed in either of the Houses of Parliament.
“This is an issue that we expect the House to have a very spirited debate on, as well as the Senate, and passage should not be a difficulty. Everyone is (familiar) with the details of it, so it should not take much time,” he said.
“I can, therefore, say with some degree of confidence, that I remain very hopeful that it will be concluded early during this legislative year. This piece of legislation is far too important to our productive future to be subjected to any undue sense of inaction,” Mr. Kellier said.
The symposium, which was held under the theme: ‘The OSH Act for Jamaica, Making Work Safer, Healthier and More Productive. Are You Ready?’, is the main activity to mark Jamaica’s commemoration of World Day for Safety and Health at Work, being observed on Sunday, April 28.
By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter