Barbados will join with its counterparts across the globe to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work on Tuesday, April 28, a day also designated as National Heroes Day on the island. This year with the spotlight on the COVID-19 pandemic, the theme chosen is: Stop The Pandemic: Safety And Health At Work Can Save Lives, and agencies worldwide will be seeking to address the outbreak of infectious diseases at work in myriad ways.
In 1996, the worldwide trade union movement started the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers on April 28, to highlight the ultimate sacrifice made by millions of workers who lose their lives or are injured as a result of poor working conditions.
In 2003, the International Labour Organization (ILO) embraced the idea to draw attention to the prevention of accidents and diseases at work and thereafter, World Day for Safety and Health at Work was instituted.
National tripartite dialogue on safety and health at work is recognised as critical to the development of medium to long-term strategies that speak to recovery and future preparedness, in particular, integrating measures into occupational safety and health (OSH) management systems as well as to policies at the national and enterprise levels.
To this end, the ILO has made two tools available. The first is a checklist that can be used to aid workplaces in identifying actions needed to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19; the second is a PowerPoint presentation highlighting some of the risks posed to workers during the current pandemic. These are available on the ILO World Day for Safety and Health at Work website.
The importance of effectively managing safety and health at work has come into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented time in our lives for which we could not fully prepare.
Nevertheless, the fundamentals of OSH management give us a framework for establishing effective measures for the protection of workers and the public that can stop the spread of infectious diseases.
The ILO Standards and COVID-19 document prepared and issued in March this year reaffirms the requirement by the Safety and Health at Work Act that employers are responsible for: providing adequate protective clothing and protective equipment, at no cost to the worker; providing adequate information and appropriate training on the hazards involved in their work and means of avoiding those hazards; consulting with workers on safety and health aspects associated with their work; providing measures to deal with emergencies; and notifying the Labour Department of cases of occupational diseases.
As Barbados acknowledges the occasion of National Heroes Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations will be playing its part in educating Barbadians on the contribution of today’s heroes, those workers known to be providing essential services.
On Sunday, April 26, the Ministry’s Chief Labour Officer (ag) Claudette Hope Greenidge will join with representatives from the Barbados Employers’ Confederation, the Barbados Nurses’ Association and the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, to reflect on the contribution of these heroes, on the CBC TV programme The People’s Business under the theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
The Ministry is reminding us that these heroes are our neighbours, former school mates, relatives and friends who work in health care facilities doing all types of jobs in the fore front like nurses and pharmacists, and in the background like laboratory staff and cleaners.
Caregivers like home-helpers and those that care for the elderly; security personnel including the police and military; cashiers and merchandisers in supermarkets and gas stations; vendors and mobile sales persons; Sanitation Service Authority; and the doctors, media practitioners, administrators and policy-makers driving the response.
Barbadians are further encouraged to see a hero as a person who, in the face of danger combats adversity through courage or strength and performs selfless acts for the common good.
It is also to be noted that every day these ordinary men and women, work extraordinarily hard to care for persons who are battling the COVID-19 disease; to provide access to essentials for survival; or protect us from dangers.