Occupational Safety and Health Act by March 2014
Plans remain on track for enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act within this legislative year, says minister of labour and social security Derrick Kellier.
"The justice ministry recently gave indication that steps are being taken to finalise the drafting of the OSH Bill by month-end. This means that the target for enacting this legislation within this legislative year is still achievable, and I pledge to work harder to bring this matter to fruition," he stated.
Kellier, who was addressing a breakfast meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston yesterday morning, said the Government is committed to putting the legislation in place, which will provide the framework for securing the safety and health of workers in the workplace and other connected areas.
The Bill will set the groundwork for the protection of all workers in all spheres of economic activities, and will comprehensively address all occupational hazards.
It covers a broader range of considerations than the existing Factories Act, to protect workers on the job and define working conditions. It also establishes a joint Health and Safety Council that monitors the safety and well-being of workers.
Kellier pointed out that safe and healthy workers are the most productive "and so we work assiduously to ensure the protection of workers and promote wellness at the workplace".
The minister noted that in recent times, one major workplace concern has been HIV and AIDS, which statistics show is most prevalent in the 15 to 49 age group, when people are in their most productive years.
He said the OSH Bill specifically makes it a responsibility for workplaces to help reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination, including prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with the disease.
"As leaders and managers and change agents in your organisation, we need you to understand that where workers are free from stigma and discrimination on the basis of real or perceived HIV status, they can lead long and productive lives and contribute significantly to their communities and the national economy," he pointed out.
Kellier further noted that the OSH Bill encourages all worksites to employ any standard that will protect the health and safety of workers and the customers and clients they serve.
"The international standard for food handlers is HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), and as you are all aware, the process for HACCP certification includes a prerequisite about personnel, with specific reference to hygiene policy. One cannot obtain HACCP certification without compliance regarding communicable and non-communicable disease," he said.
Kellier said that the ministry has been proactive in educating and preparing employers and employees for the legislation through its Voluntary Compliance Programme.
The breakfast meeting was organised by the ministry in collaboration with the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association and sought to increase awareness at the highest corporate level about occupational safety and health issues, and the need to reduce levels of stigma and discrimination in the food service industry.