Health and Safety Week at Work Observed
The following is an address by Hon. Spencer Brand, Minister of Labor in the Nevis Island Administration, to mark the observance of World Day for Health and Safety at Work 2022.
I address you on this 28th day of April that is referred to as International Labor Organization’s (ILO) World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2022, under the theme “Act together to build a positive safety and health culture.”
Let me first commend the Departments of Labor in St. Kitts and Nevis for recognizing this day, and for the tremendous work that they have been doing in this area.
As we continue to mourn his passing, I also would like us to pause to recognize the work done by the late Ambassador, former Premier and Senior Federal Minister of Labour Vance Winkworth Amory, in the area of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and for bringing and pushing this agenda to the forefront for policies, legislation, programmes and awareness in our country, working with various stakeholders. May his soul continue to rest in peace.
The Nevis Island Administration (NIA), through the Ministry of Labor, commits to building and maintaining a preventative health and safety culture and to ensure that OSH is considered as a priority in our development agenda.
Your government has worked, and continues to work diligently with the Federal government, the National COVID-19 Task Force, and the local NIA COVID-19 Task Force in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure safety and health in the workplace as an employer as well as an Administration. Thank God that we were able together, to prevent any serious spreading of the virus in our workplaces and population. Positive dialogue and the provision of useful and accurate information have allayed the fears of employers and employees, and the general population. It was you the people who partnered and participated to ensure we are where we are today, and you must be commended. However, the pandemic is not yet over and our work together therefore continues.
Through the example of how we handled the pandemic so far, we can conclude that there are advantages in encouraging social dialogue and participation in the decision-making process since it contributes to improving occupation safety and health policies and strategies, builds ownership, commitment and compliance making it easier for execution and sustainability. As a government, we will have to continue to provide the necessary resources to increase awareness of OSH, expand the knowledge of hazards and risks, and understanding how to control and prevent them. Furthermore, we must develop at the work force level, a strong OSH culture by all the stakeholders in the workplace: employers, managers, workers and customers or clients.
It is an all of society approach to ensure, for example, that we have adequate working fire extinguishers (#ad) at our workplaces; that our employees know the escape routes if, God forbid, a fire occurs; ensure that we work in a clean air environment and not be exposed to molds or chemicals which can harm our health; and that these hazards are dealt with expeditiously and in the right way when discovered.
In addition, our construction sector has been buoyant, even during the pandemic, and attention must continue to be paid to occupational safety and health – the wearing of appropriate gear, hi-vis clothing, (#ad) and shoes; practicing appropriate safety and health methods for workers, disposal of construction waste, and the provisions of good working and safe tools, (#ad) to name a few. This is one of the reasons for passing the Construction Registration and Regulation Ordinance late last year in the Nevis Island Assembly. When the provisions of this ordinance are implemented some of these OSH measures would be monitored, by the Construction Commissioner.
Moreover, Nevis has a growing ferry and water taxi service, and great attention must be paid to ensure that our ferries and water taxis are safe and healthy for crew and passengers alike; that the captains and crew practice good OSH measures, while plying their trade for themselves and transporting passengers between St. Kitts and Nevis.
The examples above show us that the culture of preventative OSH can be enhanced through social dialogue, active participation, training and education with the right policies, programmes, legislation and regulations. It is the pledge of the NIA to continue to work with all stakeholders through open dialogue, to secure an ideal OSH system for our people.
OSH control and management in our workplaces, work sphere and elsewhere inevitably means changing human behavior, to develop deep interest and desire to embrace safety in everything we do. I have learnt that safety is not just having reflectors, boots and helmets. Safety is in one’s mind. It is your conviction in doing the right things right. For instance, on the island of Nevis we have truckers and other road users who are driving on our roads at high speeds that are not necessary. These truckers must ensure that their brakes and other essential mechanical systems are working well; they must be respectful on the road and cover their trucks when carrying materials and other items that can become a hazard for other road users, both pedestrians and motorists alike. Let us work together to uphold the laws that call us to conduct ourselves in a particular way for the good of others and for ourselves.
It is important to note that occupational safety and health issues are ongoing. There will always be new and emerging risks in the work environment. Therefore, together we will have to continue to improve our OSH system as things unfold. Let us also be vigilant. Let us talk and collaborate and communicate actively to continue to build a positive safety and health culture. I pause again to congratulate the Nevis Labor Department on its celebration and recognition of the World Day for Safety and Health 2022. Do enjoy it and let us use it to reflect on our work in this area.
Happy World Day for Safety and Health 2022 and God bless!