Prime the pump
October 11, 2022
Businesses should begin to look seriously at Occupational Safety and Health

It’s only a matter of time before employers with fifteen or more employees, who have not provided for the safety, health and welfare of their employees find themselves on the other side of the law.

Recently, I attended an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Workplace Conversation Workshop, hosted by Jaric St. Vincent Limited. It was the first of a six-part conversation series aimed at awakening a consciousness in business owners of the inevitable. The OSH Act 2017 will eventually be operationalized and those who have not begun preparing for the change will be caught with their pants down.

Part 1 – Preliminary of the Act states that “This Act comes into operation on such day as the Governor General may appoint by Proclamation published in the Gazette and different days may be appointed for different provisions of this Act or the different purposes.” The reality is, whilst it appears that the Act is currently dormant, the major investments in the hospitality sector and the insertion of reputable hotel chains such as Sandals, Marriott and Holiday Inn may be the “breath that breathes life” into the OSH Act 2017.

Not only are these major investments expected to be a game changer as it relates to breathing new life into the economy but, it is expected that complementary businesses within St. Vincent and the Grenadines will have to change their modus operandi and conform to international standards if they hope to do business with these industry giants.

Workshop One of the OSH Workplace Conversation Series dealt with ‘Understanding and Implementing the OSH Act 2017’. One of the areas the Consultant examined was Part IV of the Act – ‘General Duties of Employers, Occupier and Employee and Other Persons.’ 19. (1) states that, ‘It is the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.’

Employer is interpreted to mean “any person who employs persons for the purpose of carrying out any trade, business, profession, office, vocation or apprenticeship.”
Today, I offer a brief excerpt from the Act as it relates to the employers responsible. The Act is very comprehensive, and I recommend that you employ the services of an OSH Consultant or the Labour Department to assist in your understanding and interpretation.

The employer’s responsibility includes but not limited to:

19. 2 (c) ‘the provision of adequate and suitable protective clothing or devices of an approved standard to employees who in the course of employment are likely to be exposed to the risk of head, eye, ear, hand or foot injury, injury from air contaminant or any other bodily injury and the provision of adequate instructions in the use of such protective clothing or devices.
(d) the provision of such information instruction, training, and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety and health of work of his employees.
(f) the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards amenities and arrangements for their welfare at work; and
(3) An employer shall-
(d) ensure that when hazardous chemicals are transferred into other containers or equipment, the contents are indicated in a manner which will make known to employees, their identity, any hazards associated with their use, and any safety precautions to be observed.
(8) An employer of an industrial establishment of fifteen or more employees, shall prepare or revise, in consultation with the representatives of his employees, a written statement of his general policy with respect to the safety and health of persons employed in the industrial establishment, specifying the organization and arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out the policy and the requirements of subsections (1) to (7), and the employer shall submit the statement and any revision thereof to the Chief Inspector and bring to the notice of all persons employed in the industrial establishment.

A couple years ago when I first browsed through the Act, I didn’t understand that “industrial establishment’ encapsulated all business operations i.e. “industrial establishment” means a factory, shop, office or workplace and any building or other structure or premises appertaining thereto but does not include premises occupied for residential purposes only…

The operationalized of the OSH Act 2017 has the potential of opening doors for more investors to St. Vincent and the Grenadines as there are those who would only come on board if the necessary systems were in place to protect them and stakeholders against occupational safety and health risks. It also has the potential of ‘flatlining’ businesses that are hesitant or lack the means to rise to industry standards.

The Conservation Series continue on the 25th and 26th October where the critical issue of the Safety and Health Committee will be discussed – safety and health is every body’s business.

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