May 5, 2015
VINLEC kicks off annual Environmental Health and Safety Awareness Month

Health and safety measures should be implemented by employers and employees, not just on the job, but in their everyday lives.

This was one of the resonating messages at VINLEC’s Environmental Health and Safety Awareness Month launch, which took place yesterday at the Cane Hall power plant.{{more}}

VINLEC will host a month of activities under the theme “Practice Safe and Healthy Habits – Enjoy the benefits,” in an effort to sensitize persons on health and safety best practices, improve attitudes towards safety and to increase the understanding of occupational health and safety.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, CEO Thornley Myers stressed that working with VINLEC is a “high risk business” and so persons have a responsibility to themselves, other staff and to the society to be safe.

“The cost of repairing, the cost of protecting, health care and otherwise is a societal cost, not just to VINLEC. Therefore, whatever we do, when we do it, we must ensure that we do it properly and ensure that it’s done right the first time, because to do otherwise is incurring a cost to VINLEC and a cost to society,” Myers said.

While revealing that safety is listed as one of the country’s corporate indicators, the CEO explained that the parameter is set that the company should have no more than six safety incidents per year.

However, VINLEC recorded 32 incidents in 2012, 30 incidents in 2013 and 27 incidents in 2014. Although the numbers are decreasing, Myers noted that it was still not enough.

“One safety incident is one safety incident too many. We have to do better than we are doing. There’s no question about this and we need to do so quickly,” he said.

Featured speaker Kenyatta Alleyne, an engineer and manager of the Housing and Land Development Corporation, told the audience at yesterday’s launch that health and safety in the workplace should have greater significance and be promoted and presented in a form which highlights its seriousness.

“It is interesting to also note that…St Vincent and the Grenadines needed to enact a law to wear seatbelts, despite all modern vehicles being outfitted with them and we were aware of the importance from inception,” Alleyne said.

Using his experiences as an engineer, Alleyne gave examples to highlight some of the unsafe and unhealthy practices that were usually picked up by workers. Some of these included smoking on site in close proximity to non-smokers, consuming cakes and fizzy drinks for lunch on site and working on roof tops without harnesses.

The HLDC manager stressed that while practice makes perfect, practices also form habit and so it is necessary to utilize best practices in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment.

“The benefits are evident in those who have adhered. We often wonder the secrets to a healthy life. Of course, make no mistake, however, the benefits must be a productive and healthier life, preferably before we start aging,” he said.

Alleyne encouraged workers not only to read their safety manuals, but also to put into practice what they have read.

Chair of the VINLEC board René Baptiste commended VINLEC on a packed month of activities and she was particularly pleased that the programme included mental health seminars, as well as conflict resolution and stress management seminars.

Baptiste noted that if one is not personally healthy, then 50 per cent of their intellectual, physical and mental capacity will not be able to function properly.{{more}}

“I was interested in the mental health and stress management because of the results of the NCD survey, which indicated that across the population, we are taking mental health for granted. We are not aware that if we were to do a survey among all of us present here, there will be indicators, not only of mental health fitness, but on stress as well,” she said.

Other activities include school and clinic visits, a public speaking competition, fire-fighting competition, defensive driving seminars and safety star search competitions.

Pastor Sylvester King opened the launch with an exhortation and VINLEC’s environmental health and safety officer Anthony Patterson and assistant general secretary of the National Workers’ Movement Sylvia McLean also delivered brief remarks.(BK)