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The president of the Jamaica Occupational Health and Safety Professionals Association (JOHSPA), Janice Green, is urging the Government to fast track the deliberations about the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill to facilitate the passing of the OSH Act in 2020. Her call comes against the background of a promise made by the Government that the bill would be passed in Parliament by the end of 2019.

The OSH Act will establish a legal framework to protect the rights, health and safety of persons in all areas of economic activity, including the public and private sectors; as well as formal and informal economies.

“It would indeed signify a commitment towards attaining international standards that would foster the provision of healthy and safe systems of work and decent work for all,” Ms Green explained. “Furthermore, the OSH Act would give Jamaica a competitive advantage to attract more international investments for job creation and development. The act would ensure that Jamaica maintains comparable systems of conducting business that are consistent with international health and safety standards.”

Green, who is also the occupational health and safety officer at The Jamaica National Group, pointed out that the OSH Act will replace the Factories Act of 1943, which has limitations.

“The Factories Act only covers production, construction and dock workers. There are no standards to control occupational health issues, such as psychosocial factors, noise, hazardous chemicals, and poor ergonomics, ”she disclosed.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING

Last January, JOHSPA made written and oral presentations to the Joint Select Committee and submitted 20 points for discussion to advance the enactment of the OSH Act. At the forefront of those recommendations is the establishment of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to facilitate a robust OSH framework.

“A MOU is important for the successful implementation, which will ensure established mechanisms for the generation of annual, comprehensive national occupational injury and disease reports, without duplicating efforts,” the JOHSPA president explained.

She noted that presently, there are four agencies in Jamaica which have some responsibility for occupational safety and health, namely: the OSH Department in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; the National Insurance Scheme; the Mines and Geology Division; and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

JOHSPA also posits that the bill should include provisions for indoor air quality.

“The OSH Bill does not specifically speak to provisions to be made for air-quality control inside a workspace, as opposed to external air quality,” Green explains. “Therefore, this is a major issue for office workers generally, and call centre workers in the business process outsourcing sector, who are particularly at risk.”

Another recommendation, which was put forward by JOHSPA, is referencing the types of psychosocial hazards and the likely results of failure to control them, in the same way that the OSH Bill identifies dangerous chemicals and occupational diseases in Section 2 and the schedules.

With the new act, Green said there is an expectation of joint responsibility between the person conducting business or undertaking and the workers, to identify safety and health issues, as well as to develop preventive and/or corrective solutions.

“There is a duty of care from the persons conducting business or undertakings, to prevent injuries and illnesses resulting from workplace conditions. It is also to protect the safety, health and well-being of workers through workplace health and safety policies and promotions.

“On the other hand, workers also need to comply with the reasonable and practicable systems, which have been put in place without fear of discrimination, or violation of their human rights,” she maintains.

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