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  • The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is in the process of developing regulations stipulating how the issue of HIV/AIDS must by treated in the workplace.
  • The regulations are expected to be guided by a White Paper on the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS.
  • A Consultant has been engaged to develop a protocol for “managing” HIV/AIDS cases arising in instances of overseas employment.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is in the process of developing regulations stipulating how the issue of HIV/AIDS must by treated in the workplace.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the regulations are expected to be guided by a White Paper on the National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS, which was approved by both Houses of Parliament in February this year.

He informs that the Ministry is currently in the process of engaging the services of a draftsman to develop the regulations, which are to be appended to the proposed Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), being targetted for passage in the Houses of Parliament by the end of the 2013/14 fiscal year.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of the Ministry’s National Workplace Policy on HIV and AIDS, and Jamaica’s Occupational Safety and Health Profile 2013, in preparation for the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on December 16.

Mr. Kellier also advised that a Consultant has been engaged to develop a protocol for “managing” HIV/AIDS cases arising in instances of overseas employment. He added that,  “we are working at ensuring that our menu of social services are sensitive to the needs of persons with HIV and do not contain any loopholes for HIV-related discrimination.”

The Minister said it is hoped that public consultations on the regulations will commence in February 2014.

The Policy is a framework of action by the government, employers, and workers to effectively deal with HIV and AIDS in the workplace. It is expected to: assist in developing a caring, supportive, and responsible working environment that will protect all workers; reduce HIV and AIDS related stigma and discrimination; and assist in reducing HIV and AIDS transmission.

Its development was undertaken by the Government of Jamaica, in partnership with several local and international partners. These include: the World Bank; United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, through the local office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF); and Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU)

The OSH Profile is essential in steps toward instituting Jamaica’s National Occupational Safety and Health Programme. It is an inventory of all the tools and resources Jamaica has at its disposal to implement and manage occupational safety and health. It is designed to provide all the requisite data for setting national priorities for action aimed at the progressive and continued improvement of workplace safety and health.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kellier said Jamaica has recorded a significant decrease in the number of AIDS cases reported since 2006, consequent on increased access to anti-retroviral (ARV) medication.

“In 2010, approximately 333 AIDS deaths (197 males and 136 females) were reported compared to 665 in 2004. This represents a 50 per cent decline in AIDS deaths since the inception of universal access to ARVs in 2004, and a 46 per cent decrease when compared to 2000 (which recorded 617 AIDS deaths). We can, therefore, dispel the myth that HIV and AIDS are a death sentence. HIV is approaching chronic disease status and must be treated accordingly in the workplace,” he stated.

On the matter of safety, Mr. Kellier said progress has been made over the years in enhancing workplace safety. He informed that in 2010, approximately 165 accidents were reported; 146 in 2011, and 265 in 2012.

“Please note that the increase in figures is not necessarily an indication of increased accidents, but an indication of better surveillance. More workplaces are becoming aware of the Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Department and their responsibility to report accidents as well as to ensure the safety of their workplaces,” the Minister explained.

Mr. Kellier advised that the Ministry has been able to exceed its inspection targets in recent times, as over the last five years, the OSH Department conducted just under 4,500 inspections, with 2012 accounting for some 2,207 of these. Additionally, he said some 2,251 inspections were conducted between January and November this year.

The Minister said the inspections have yielded recommendations for improvements where breaches are deemed to have occurred.