Gov’t keen on maintaining workplace health, safety

– revising OSH Act

The Ministry of Labour will be pursuing a legislative agenda this year to continue the revision process of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act to enhance the social, mental and physical well-being of employees countrywide.

Minister, Hon. Joseph Hamilton on Tuesday said the objective is to bring into force the existing Mining and Joint Workplace Safety and Health Committee Regulations.

The Labour Minister was at the time speaking at the opening of a three-day virtual Conference hosted by the American Chambers of Commerce — Guyana (AmCham) to spark conversations about workplace Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE).

Hon. Joseph Hamilton, Minister of Labour

“The implementation of this legislative agenda is very important since it will provide for the protection of the safety and health of workers in the respective areas. The Department capacity will also be built in the areas,” Minister Hamilton said.

The agenda will include the Labour Act, Termination of Employment and Severance Pay Act, and would see the development of regulations for the oil and gas sector and the construction industry.

The agenda also allows for the revision of the Docks Safety Regulations in keeping with the International Standard and the completion of draft regulations at the Attorney General’s Chambers in the areas of Manufacturing Safety and Health Regulations and Chemical Safety Health Regulations.

The Minister told the Zoom meet participants that an OHS campaign would be launched to promote safe workplaces and reduce accidents in the mining and manufacturing sectors.

“This initiative was decided on after careful review of trending activities in these sectors and the human losses suffered as a result of unsafe work place conditions, unsafe acts of persons, unsafe working equipment and unsafe work.”

Staff of the OSH Department will also receive training to build their capacity and develop specialised skills in keeping with international standards and practices in areas including safety and health in mining, construction, maritime, oil and gas, forestry and agriculture.

Minister Hamilton pointed out that major focus would be placed on promoting the joint responsibility system for safety and health at work. The main objective of this initiative is to promote cooperation between employers and employees in investigating, developing and conducting exercises to ensure safety is maintained. This is an ongoing activity and the Ministry offers training for committee members.

The Minister said they will continue to collaborate with the tripartite partners, key stakeholders, international organisations such as the International Labour Organization and the Pan American Health Organisation.

Meanwhile in his address, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, spoke about safeguarding workers health and the environment, even as the agriculture sector expands to serve a burgeoning export market.

Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Agriculture

“With the operationalisation of the Guyana Food Safety Authority [GFSA], the agricultural industry will become more compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1997. A food safety management system that supports safe food being produced, consumed, and exported will be actively promoted and monitored.

“The Food Safety Authority will undertake national efforts in providing awareness on safe distribution, handling, and vending methods of food. The GFSA will also design and implement a food traceability and recall system to be able to quickly mitigate potential risks along the farm to fork continuum, thereby contributing to the reduced incidence of foodborne illnesses and diseases,” Minister Mustapha said.

The Agriculture Minister emphasised that with Guyana’s high expectations for scaled-up production, it is important that health and safety measures are observed.

“I expect that every sub-sector in the agriculture industry has a health and safety culture. With health and safety being a priority in the agriculture industry, we expect there will be minimum injuries and illness as our agriculture workers work to feed the population.” The conference runs until January 21.