MINISTER of Labour Joseph Hamilton has disclosed that the Ministry of Labour will be training 18 new labour officers and 18 new Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) officers in 2021.
The move by the ministry comes as Minister Hamilton called on employers and their employees to work collaboratively to promote a more efficient and safe working environment.
Minister Hamilton stated that since he took office in August, there have been reports of seven workplace-related deaths.
He highlighted that while five of the deaths occurred at mining operations, two of them occurred in Georgetown, which he believes could have been prevented.
“Just in Georgetown we have to deal with incidents of people losing their lives on the job. People are up on four-storey buildings and guys are up there with no harness, no safety hats, no safety boots, they’re barefoot or in slippers; they are walking on a 2×4 plank and all sorts of things,” said Hamilton.
On November 9, 2020, a 29-year-old sanitation worker fell from the fourth storey of the new infectious diseases hospital at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara. The man was at the time using a freight lift, which is only intended for transporting food and laundry at the facility, when it collapsed, causing him fatal injuries.
Minister Hamilton further stated that while the ministry lacks some senior personnel to carry out key labour and OSH functions, qualified persons are currently being sought. He stated, however, that while those persons are being sought, the process of training labour and OSH officers will commence in 2021.
“We have to have the bodies, we have missing senior persons; we have to find the qualified persons and bring them into the system. We don’t have enough labour officers and that is why I have been making the point that we are attempting to ensure that in every region we can have at least two labour officers and that is what we are working towards, and that is part of the engagements we had with the Regional Democratic Council.
“Also, we hope to have in every region two health and safety officers to deal with those matters,” Hamilton explained.
He added that the ministry, in an effort to promote further efficiency, has taken the decision to divide Georgetown into three sections so as to ensure that labour and OSH officers in the region have a smaller area of focus, so that closer attention can be paid to issues that may arise.
Additionally, Minister Hamilton disclosed that the ministry intends to implement public education programmes to engage both employer and employees on workplace labour and safety practices.
“We plan to do a robust public relations programme in the new year to alert people to the dangers surrounding safety matters; we have to speak to both employers and employees because in engagement with [the] private sector some of them have said when they buy the gear the guys don’t want to wear it; they say the boots too heavy the vest got them too hot and all these things, so we plan, at the level of labour and OSA, to do robust public relations campaigns to inform people about issues of labour and occupational safety and health that are impacting work environments,” the labour minister said.