Occupational safety, health being overlooked – NWM General Secretary
Raheem Hall (left), was recognized for submitting the winning theme for the week of activities.
May 23, 2023
Occupational safety, health being overlooked – NWM General Secretary

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) employers and workers in some organizations have been known to overlook occupational, safety and health (OSH) measures.

And, general secretary of the National Workers Movement (NWM), Noel Jackson says this move can result in long term medical problems and situations that can even lead to loss of life.

Noel Jackson

“Occupational Health and Safety is a big thing, a very big thing and should not be taken for granted…no overtime money, no fringe benefit or no extra perk can replace the importance of occupational safety and health,” Jackson said on Monday, May 15 at the launch of the St. Vincent Electricity Services Ltd’s (VINLEC) May 15-19 Environmental Health and Safety Awareness Week.

Jackson said in SVG, a lot of persons take OSH for granted and cited a case at the port where heavy lift operators were complaining about bad lighting that affect them after 6:00 p.m.

He said the issue was drawn to the attention of management and there was a lacklustre, laid back approach and nothing was done.

Jackson said the complaint intensified and he asked workers what they wanted to do as they could “just jump off the forklift and stand up” but they decided to meet with management on the issue and a delegate was chosen to accompany him to the meeting.

He said during the meeting, although he had a strong case, he was outdone when an offer of additional pay was made for persons who worked after 6:00 p.m.

“Of course he deflate me because I can’t argue with he in front the manager… so I agree with them and I came outside and I say ‘man you embarrass me’, and he said ‘Jackson after 6 is a 100 dollars I getting ah nah, and I say ‘yeah what about your life?’ and he said ‘Jackson nothing will happen’, so I said ‘you shouldn’t have taken me to the meeting’ and the lighting is the same way today,” Jackson related.

“He accepted a 100 dollars to strain his eyes and jeopardize people lives on the wharf in the night ….I hope nothing happens,” Jackson commented.

He stressed that it is important to realize that occupational safety and health is not only about physical safety but encompasses mental health, spiritual health, social well being and political consideration.

“The last three can impact the first, and the last three can help us detect the first one as mental health … is not so easy to detect.”

Jackson is encouraging VINLEC and other entities to build the capacity for the detection of mental health issues as, “we have to strive for greater things and set the utopian goal especially when we are dealing with human beings and their values and interest.”

Jackson stressed that it is important to be able to detect when an employee may be going in a different direction as mental health is an issue that is affecting the active work force.

“And we ought to recognize this and is not only about VINLEC, the workforce in general. Mental health is a very serious issue that we ought to pay attention to…,” the industrial relations specialist said.

He added also that persons must become familiar with elements in their work environment that can impact their physical health.

“…. For example our posture when we are executing our duties, how you bend, how you squat, how you lift. Those are things that ought to be given serious attention because later down the road your work life can be cut short if you don’t pay attention to these issues.

“You need to become familiar with the chemicals you use to clean your work stations. You ought to develop in the company the establishment of a chemical hazard sheet that spells out the components of the chemical to simplify it,” Jackson also pointed out.

He said he knows of a work place where there have been several deaths from cancer and they use a lot of chemicals daily.

“… Is it because of that or is coincidence? And we don’t know. I ask the question and nobody answers. I even suggest that we provide scholarships so that people can study occupational diseases…,”Jackson commented at Monday’s activity.

He noted that industrial relations impacts OSH so it is important that persons dealing with industrial relations have a good relationship with management so as not to create an uncomfortable atmosphere for workers.

“That is why we strive to see how much we can tolerate management when they sometimes aggravate you, because you can be the author or assist the situation that can negatively impact members and their mental health,” Jackson said.

The launch of VINLEC’s OSH week of activities was held at the Cane Hall complex under the theme “Healthy Mind and Body-Safe Practices in our Community.”