Gov’t senator calls for occupational safety and health culture

GOVERNMENT Senator Kavan Gayle has called for a partnership to advocate for a national occupational safety and health culture in Jamaica.

He has also called for the appointment of a joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament to review the Occupational Safety and Health Bill that has been tabled in the House of Representatives and for which Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson has already opened the debate.

Senator Gayle said while he has been making numerous calls for the Bill to be debated and passed, he wanted to use the opportunity to encourage the Government to refer the Bill to a JSC to encourage wider participation in the debate on its provisions.

He said that referring the Bill for review would ensure rigorous analysis of the provisions by stakeholders, and every component — from the rights of workers to the obligation of employers — could be considered.

“It is an important legislation that requires necessary, continuous consultation — where all stakeholders involved should arrive at some level of consensus,” he said.

But Opposition Senator Lambert Brown, although commending Gayle for raising the issue in the Senate a day before the world celebrated World Day for Safety and Health at Work, opposed the idea of referring the Bill to a JSC.

He said that while he understood Gayle’s acknowledgement that the current Administration has brought the Bill to Parliament and the minister of labour and social security has opened the debate, that was not good enough.

He said that the country needed the Bill to be passed urgently and accused both sides of the Senate of failing to address the need for an occupational health and safety Bill.

“So my friend I can’t agree with you that we have to go back through another joint select committee to discuss this Bill,” he added.

Brown was supported by his Opposition colleague, Senator Floyd Morris, who also called for immediate action to protect workers.

Senator Gayle, who had raised the issue on the motion for the adjournment, noted that the United Nations-sponsored World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which was celebrated on Saturday, is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work, and has been observed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 2003.

He said that a partnership of stakeholders could lead to a national occupational safety and health culture in Jamaica, which would encourage and promote the right to a safe and healthy working environment at levels.

“Accidents and injuries at the workplace are sometimes not investigated, and no record is kept, and no data accessed,” he told the Senate.

He said that, based on ILO data, every day in the world 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases; more than 2.3 million people die per year; and there are 317 million accidents occurring on the job annually.

“Jamaica would have had its unfortunate share of occupation death and work-related accidents and injuries. We would have lost downtime and man hours due to stoppages caused by accidents,” he said.

Senator Gayle acknowledged that the current Administration had “ gone where no other has ventured”, in terms tabling and actually opening the debate.

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