“Employers have the responsibility to reduce any risk factors in the workplace that may give rise to ill effects.”

This sentiment was shared by Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo as she addressed the REA Envirohealth International’s Environmental Medicine as a Tool for the Prevention of Occupational Diseases seminar this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

“It is necessary that greater emphasis be placed on the prevention of occupational diseases. At the international, national and institutional levels, efforts are needed to highlight and address existing conditions in our places of work which could lead to the development of occupational diseases,” the Labour Minister said, explaining that under the Act, employers had specific responsibilities, such as ensuring adequate workplace temperature and lighting and protecting workers from noise and vibration.

Stressing that achieving safety and health at work was a tripartite effort, Dr. Byer Suckoo said: “Effective prevention requires the continuous improvement of national occupational safety and health (OSH) systems, inspection, and educational and prevention programmes.

“It must be accepted that this task must continue to be a collaborative effort between government, employers’ and workers’ organizations.  This level of collaboration would ensure that occupational diseases are featured prominently on the agenda for safety and health,” she said, adding that it was necessary to report, compile and analyse relevant data which would improve preventive strategies for occupational diseases.

Noting that the recently proclaimed Safety and Health at Work Act, along with the  Accidents and Occupational Diseases (Notification) Act Cap. 338, served to address OSH issues, Senator Byer Suckoo reaffirmed government’s commitment to ensuring efficient OSH practices were present in any workplace and engaged relevant entities to achieve this goal.

“…the National Advisory Committee on Safety and Health (NACOSH) which was established at a time when…there was an urgent need to protect workers who were becoming increasingly exposed to health hazards through the introduction of raw materials, chemicals and new work processes and the fact that hazardous levels of noise and dust existed in some work environments.

“Very recently, NACOSH submitted a recommendation to my Ministry for the creation of standards in the construction industry which would provide much needed guidelines to avoid accidents in that sector.   I look forward to hearing of this committee’s contributions to the revision of Cap 338, and to the development of future programmes which focus on occupational diseases.

Minister Byer Suckoo also stated that OSH would be achievable through improved collaboration between safety and health entities and the social security institution; intergration of the prevention of occupational diseases into labour inspection programs; and improving the capacity of occupational health services for the monitoring of working environments and the implementation of preventive measures.

The seminar was held in observance of the International Labour Organisation’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which will be celebrated this Sunday, April 28.

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