Health and safety act comes into force today
-to be used as Caribbean model

Stabroek News
September 15, 1999

The Occupational Safety and Health Act which was passed in December 1997, the only one in the Caribbean that encompasses all four basic rights of the workers will come into force today.

To balance the employer's general right to direct the work force and to control the production process in the work place, the Act gives four basic rights to workers, a seminar on occupational health and safety at the Tower Hotel was told last Thursday.

These include: The right to participate - Workers have the right to be part of the process of identifying and resolving work place safety and health concerns. This right is expressed through worker membership on the joint work place safety and health committees or through the worker's safety and health representatives;

The right to know - Workers have the right to know about any potential hazards to which they may be exposed. This means the right to be trained and to have information on machinery, equipment, working conditions, processes and hazardous chemicals;

The right to refuse to work - Workers have the right to refuse work that they believe is dangerous to either their own safety and health or that of another. The Act describes the exact process for refusing dangerous work and the responsibilities of the employer in responding to such a refusal;

The right to be free of reprisal - Workers have the right to be free of real or threatened reprisals when acting in the compliance with this Act or regulations, seeking the enforcement of this Act or the regulations, for example, by contacting an inspector or giving evidence in a proceeding relative to this Act or the regulations.

According to the legislation, employers have a general duty to take all reasonable precautions to protect the safety and health of workers.

These duties include: ensuring that the equipment, materials and other protective devices and clothing provided by the employer are maintained in good condition; providing information, instruction, supervision, assistance and training to the workers and others such as supervisors and medical practitioners with respect to workers' safety and health; assisting and co-operating with safety and health joint committees and representatives; non-payment of underage workers or knowingly underage persons in or near the work place; taking every reasonable precaution to protect the worker, preparing a written Occupational Safety and Health Policy, reviewing it periodically and implementing it; posting up the Act with explanatory material and the policy in a conspicuous location in the work place; ensuring that the physical structure of the work place is sound with respect to the work performed there; ensuring that work in the work place is carried out in an environmentally safe manner.

In addition to these general duties there are also prescribed duties which could only be effected by the introduction of the specific regulations e.g., protective clothing and devices, measures and procedures.

Under this Act, a worker must work in compliance with the Act and Regulations; use or wear any equipment, protective devices or clothing required by the employer; take care of the personal protective equipment, protective devices and clothing that the worker provides; report to the employer or supervisor any known missing or defective equipment or protective device that may be dangerous, any known work place hazard, or any known violation of the Act and Regulations; not remove or make ineffective any protective device required by the employer of the regulations; not use or operate any equipment or work in any way that may endanger any worker and not to engage in any prank, contest, feat of strength, unnecessary running or rough and boisterous behaviour.

Director of the International Labour Organisation, Caribbean Office, Willi Momm, told the seminar that the Guyana legislation was the only one in Caribbean that encompasses all four of the basic rights of the worker.

He said that Guyana's legislation would be used as a model for other Caribbean countries.

Minister of Labour, Dr Henry Jeffrey, in thanking all the parties who made the legislation possible said it should not be seen as a cost addition to production, but that as a benefit for everyone.

Remarks were also made by Country Representative of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Bernadette Theodore-Gandi; Stephen Mc Andrew of CARICOM, Executive Director of the Consultative Association of Guyanese Industry Ltd, David Yankana, and General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Lincoln Lewis.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples