Georgetown, Guyana: On the occasion of Occupational Safety and Health Month 2023, the Minister of Labour of Guyana, Joseph Hamilton, has shared a lengthy message to wish the general public.
The message by the minister read as follows:
Fellow workers, Greetings from the Ministry of Labour as we launch another month of activities for the observance of Occupational Safety and Health in Guyana.
As you are aware, the month of April has been designated Occupational Safety and Health month in Guyana, with the 28th day of April being observed as Occupational Safety and Health Day. The 28th is also World Day for Safety and Health 2023, as designated by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
This year, the observance of Occupational Safety and Health month and day in Guyana is being done under the theme “A safe as well as healthy working environment is a fundamental principle at work”, and it is in keeping with the theme for World Day for Safety & Health 2023 as designated by the ILO.
Further, it must be pointed out that “A safe as well as healthy working environment” is one of the five (5) categories of fundamental principles and rights at work as stated by the International Labour Organization (ILO). And the other categories are:
1. Freedom of association and recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
2. The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;
3. The effective abolition of child labour.
4. The elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.
These are all principles that the Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Labour, is guided by, and I am also encouraging all employers to do the same. The need for a safe and healthy working environment in workplaces cannot be over-emphasized. Reports by the International Labour Organization on recent studies have identified that there is an increased demand for Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety professionals in the construction, oil and gas sectors in Guyana. In fact, it is the second-highest skill needed in these sectors.
On my assumption to office as Minister of Labour, I made visits to the ten administrative Regions of Guyana as I sought to rebuild the Ministry of Labour. During those visits, I recognized and confirmed the importance of Occupational Safety and Health and its role in the development of Guyana. I recognized that the need existed for the Ministry of Labour to establish Offices and have Occupational Safety and Health Officers stationed in all ten administrative regions and, more in particular, Regions One (1), Seven (7), Eight ( and Nine (9).
This position was taken for many reasons, which included the increased level of economic activities within the Regions, the increasing number of fatal accidents within the mining sector and the need for the promotion and maintenance of safety and health at work.
Further, I recognized that there was not only the need to invest in building safety and health systems, but it was also important for all of us, employers, trade unions, and workers, to act together to build a safety culture in all workplaces in Guyana so that workplaces can be safer and healthier thereby reducing workplace accidents.
Today, the services of the Occupational Safety and Health Department have been expanded with the creation of twenty (20) additional positions within the Occupational Safety and Health Department with the provision of services throughout the ten administrative regions of Guyana. In addition, the capacity of staff has also been strengthened through refresher training so that they are better equipped to deliver the kind of service that is required.
This intervention has led to a significant uptake in the number of inspections done, an increase in the level of consciousness of safety and health at work by workers in both the public and private sectors and the informal economy and surely contributed to the reduction of workplace fatalities. The investigation of workplace fatalities and serious workplace accidents has been a priority for the Ministry. We have taken employers to court on several occasions for failure to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health legislation and will continue to do so when necessary.
It is apposite to note that recently there was a fatality at a workplace, and as Minister of Labour, I have ordered that a formal investigation be conducted into the accident in keeping with the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Chapter 99:o6, Laws of Guyana. A Team of investigators has been appointed, and the investigation has started and should be completed within the next few weeks.
While workplace fatalities continue to be of grave concern to this Ministry, it must, however, be reported that there has been a continuing decline in the number of workplace fatalities when compared with previous years. In 2021, there was a 16 per cent decline, and in 2022, there was a 22 per cent decline.
It is therefore proposed to continue the focus on good workplace safety and health practices and the promotion of the joint responsibility system in workplaces as we work towards the development of a safety culture.
As is customary, this year, the Ministry of Labour has requested workplaces in Georgetown and Regions 1-10 to execute programmes in observance of Occupational Safety and Health month. I have been informed that the response to this request has been very positive. Workplaces have indicated a range of activities from sensitization sessions, training programmes re: fire prevention and First-aid, the hanging of banners, safety and health competitions to hazard hunts.
The Department has also developed a programme of activities which includes the launching of the month, the annual OSH Walk and outreaches that will focus on the safety of miners as well as construction workers while at work and their safe return to families and friends at the end of the work day. In addition, the agriculture sector will be targeted in Regions 2, 3, 5 & 6. It is expected that the execution of these activities will be redound to the benefit of the working people of Guyana and their families.
Happy Occupational Safety and Health Month 2023 to all.