- The Government remains resolute in protecting the safety, health and welfare of the workforce.
- This will be further strengthened with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
- The Act will set the groundwork for the protection of workers in all spheres of economic activities, and will comprehensively address all occupational hazards.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says the Government remains resolute in protecting the safety, health and welfare of the workforce, which will be further strengthened with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
The Act will set the groundwork for the protection of workers in all spheres of economic activities, and will comprehensively address all occupational hazards.
It covers a broader range of considerations than the existing Factories Act, to protect workers on the job and define working conditions. It also establishes a joint Health and Safety Council that monitors the safety and well-being of workers.
During a tour of the manufacturing plant of Berger Paints Jamaica, on Spanish Town Road in Kingston, on April 24, Mr. Kellier said the pending OSHA has major provisions for the safe use and handling of chemicals at work, and will be applicable to all places of employment, including dwelling houses where domestic workers carry out varying duties.
“The Ministry envisages that some 20,000 workplaces will be added when the new Act comes into place,” he said.
The Minister noted that this piece of legislation becomes particularly important when one considers the recent decision by the Government to introduce flexible work options as an element of nation-building.
Flexible work practices are expected to vary the traditional Monday to Friday, nine to five work pattern.
“They are expected to enhance the balance between work and other forms of activity outside the workplace, giving employers more options to meet business and customer needs, while providing employees with more time to meet personal or family needs,” he said.
Mr. Kellier said the Act, when passed into law, is expected to reduce turnover and absenteeism at work, boost morale, and enhance productivity through flexi-work.
The Minister said factors that will be addressed include: the well-being and personal safety of workers generally, whether on day or night shift; the requirements and arrangements for domestic workers; job stress and mental health; the challenges related to job security and worker morale/attitude; the importance of rest breaks and leave.
He also noted that the suitability of workspaces and the working environment; the demands of diversity in the workforce (age, sex, impairment, religious beliefs, and socio-economic background); equipment handling; and accident and sickness procedures will be included.
In the meantime, the Minister congratulated the management and staff of Berger Paints Jamaica for the focus on safety and quality at the workplace, which they have maintained over the years.
He said the tour assured him that the company is compliant as far as health, safety and the welfare condition of workers are concerned, adding that there is a harmonious industrial relationship between managers and workers, and to top it off, the company boasts flexible shift hours.
“So, for me, the Berger model is a working one, and I hope that other companies are taking note, especially those companies engaged in the handling of chemicals,” the Minister said.
Managing Director of Berger Paints, Mustafa Turra, informed that the company, which started operations in Jamaica in 1953, has not experienced any major industrial accidents in the last two decades.
He noted that the company is moving towards zero effluent, “and we try and recycle as much as we can from our operations, especially solvents, so we can reduce our environmental impact.”
Mr. Turra said the company is also in the process of phasing out products that are harmful to the environment, to ensure continued safety of workers and consumers.
The Minister’s tour comes ahead of World Day for Safety and Health, which will be observed on Monday, April 28, under the theme: ‘Safety and Health in the Use of Chemicals at Work’.