The following is an address by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labor Ron Dublin-Collins:
World Day for Safety and Health at Work provides a tripartite focus to the annual workers’ Memorial Day observed in many countries throughout the world on April 28. This is a day for promoting safety and health in the workplace and to honour those who have died from work-related injury or illness.
This year, 2018, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work and the World Day Against Child Labour are coming together in a joint campaign to improve the safety and health of young workers and end child labour. The campaign aims to accelerate action to achieve sustainable development goals of safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030 and of ending all forms of child labour by 2025.
We are encouraged to promote this day under the theme “Generation Safe and Healthy” and to highlight the importance of improving safety and healthy for young workers and for generations to come.
There are 541 million young workers in the world today, accounting for [more than] 15 percent of the global labour force. They include students who work in their spare time, apprentices, interns, young people who have finished or dropped out of compulsory education, young workers in family businesses, and self-employed workers.
Young workers can bring energy, new ideas and a fresh perspective. However, young workers are also at risk of workplace injury due to their lack of experience and maturity, and they may be less aware of workplace health and safety risks and responsibilities.
We can help to create a safe and healthy environment for young workers by providing the right tools and training to complete work safely, and educating young workers about their rights and responsibilities, and to act responsibly. These, and others, will most certainly contribute to a culture of well being, safe, healthy and decent work conditions for all. Research suggests that young workers suffer from injury and illness on the job at far higher rates than their adult counterparts. Modern labour markets are a tough place for young jobseekers. Many feel pressure to accept the first job offer they get, often without considering if the working conditions put their health and safety at risk.
The Ministry of Labour, in its efforts to promote decent work, joins employers and workers in renewing the commitment to the development of solutions aimed at improving the situation in workplaces which will create and maintain a safe and healthy environment.
Workplace safety is the responsibility of everyone, whether we be employer or employee in every organization. Safety standards and procedures ought to be in place, and must be adhered to in order for them to be effective. The main goal of safety and health programs is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, as well as the suffering and financial hardship these events can cause for workers, their families, and employers.
Traditional approaches to safety and health are often reactive. In such cases, it is only after a worker is injured or becomes sick that a new standard or regulation is published, or when an inspection finds a problem that must be fixed, that action may be taken. However, using a proactive approach to manage workplace safety and health, finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness, is a far more effective approach. We need not wait until there is an accident before we act to reduce the likelihood of a repeat incident. This must be our attitude and response going forward.
There is still much to be done in terms of improving the situation in workplaces throughout our federation. It is, however, encouraging to hear and see of an increasing number of employers and workers taking the initiative in making workplaces safer.
Training, diligence and proper safety equipment are also instrumental elements to reducing workplace accidents and injuries. Health and safety requires workers to be equipped to change the way things are done at the workplace. The ILO Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155), states that “employers are required to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, workplaces, equipment and substances are safe and without risks to health.” Thus, all workplace risks should be properly managed. This includes providing good training and information and supervising new or young workers. Since working conditions can change daily, safety and health require constant vigilance. Everyone has a role to play in making workplaces as safe and healthy as possible.
Workers should also co-operate with their employers in fulfilling the obligations placed upon them and report situations that present imminent danger. They should comply with instructions given for their own and others’ safety and health. I must, therefore, continue to urge all workers, employers and other partners to actively participate in workplace forums in order to find joint solutions to the many problems facing us in workplace safety and health, where the principle of “safe work” is accorded the highest priority.
The Department of Labour continues to drive various programs in order to achieve its goal of safer and healthier workplaces. To this end, we continue to provide training for all of our inspectors. Our inspectors continue to benefit from training to ensure they can effectively support our workplaces in creating a national occupational safety and health culture, where employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of well defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention.
This year again, in the spirit of tripartism, we are taking another step forward to build a stronger Occupational Safety and Health culture in our places of work. As part of the week’s activities, we will host a National Consultation on the Way Forward for a National Policy on Occupational Safety and Health. This will bring together all stakeholders in the world of work to elaborate an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policy for St. Kitts and Nevis. Such a policy supports government’s agenda in ensuring decent work for and creating a culture of prevention as it relates Occupational Safety and health.
[During] the coming weekng, there will be a number of other important activities to officially mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work, including a worship service at 9 a.m. at the Wesley Methodist Church Sunday, April 29; OSH presentations at work sites and institutions of learning; and the national consultation on moving toward an occupational safety and health policy.
The Ministry of Labour looks forward to the public supporting these activities of the National Tripartite Committee. Let us commit ourselves to creating that culture that will ensure our health and safety at work and work together to ensure decent work for all.
I thank you and may God bless us in all our endeavours!