Occupational Safety Bill Committee to meet with gas retailers

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Occupational Safety Bill Committee to meet with gas retailers

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 28, 2020

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THE parliamentary committee reviewing the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Bill says it will be inviting Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) to its next meeting to discuss issues arising from last week's fire at the Mandeville Fresco gas station.

One man was killed and six onlookers hospitalised after the gas station was extensively damaged by fire on Friday, the source of which is still unclear. It also damaged at least 12 vehicles parked in the vicinity.

The issued was raised minutes after the joint select committee, chaired by minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Zavia Mayne, resumed discussions at Gordon House yesterday on the Bill which has been slowly ploughing its way through a field of sensitive proposals since 2017.

Opposition Senator Wensworth Skeffery noted that the fire and the resulting losses, death and injury should be of interest to the committee, and expressed condolences to those who were affected. He highlighted the importance of the Bill in seeking to ensure the safety and health of persons at their workplaces.

Mayne said that although he has not had the details of the fire, he considered it an “unfortunate situation” and extended condolences on behalf of the committee to the family.

“If it is that the death resulted from a safety and health breach, then it underscores the importance of a Bill like this,” he argued.

However, he noted that the private sector, including the JGRA – the umbrella body for gas station operators – has ignored invitations to become involved in the committee's deliberations

Government member, Senator Kavan Gayle said that the accident brings into sharp focus the issues the committee has been addressing for several months.

“It makes me wonder again, having been through these discussions and deliberations and looking at various aspects of the deliberations, if in our own mind we don't need to review what took place there [at the gas station] to inform us on the approach we need to take,” Senator Gayle suggested.

Gayle also criticised the lack of precaution at service stations which, he said, suggests that the employees were not aware of the dangers that exist in a petrol environment. He said that the gasolene retailers need to explain: the operational guidelines in terms of their line of business; the need for inspection and for the scheduling of inspections to ensure compliance; as well as their recommendations for the final legislation.

Senator Skeffery said he was concerned about the training of persons employed to gas stations, as well as the requirements for employment.

Senator Lambert Brown also noted that the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF) and the private sector, in general, had not taken up the committee's offer to them to join the deliberations, “so that we can get the input of the employers into the Bill and so that later on nobody can complain that the views of the employers were not heard”.

“The employers are missing the opportunity, and I want to make an appeal to them again to come to the committee meetings because we want a Bill that works for everybody and we are not excluding them – they are excluding themselves,” Brown suggested.

Maine said that the committee's records will show that it had extended itself to the private sector “beyond the original invitation for them to comment on the Bill”.

“Promises have been made, but they are yet to appear before this committee, and since we are so aggressively considering this Bill, which we hope will become law not too long from now, we believe that it is appropriate to have them here, especially since they did not comment on the Bill when the invitation was sent out,” the chairman added.

President of the JGRA Geoffrey Chong told the Jamaica Observer last night that he was not aware of the meetings, but having heard what the committee said yesterday about the JGRA's absence, he would be willing to attend the next meeting. The committee is expected to meet next on Thursday, March 5 at Gordon House.


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