Occupational Safety and Health week ended on a high note last Friday, when representatives from the Ministry of Labour observed live line maintenance from the Barbados Light & Power Company in Walkers, St. George.
Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, said the demonstration from the BL&P, which is known for its best practices in OSH, was a fitting end to a week of seminars which highlighted safety and health issues, including the importance of safety in mobile workplaces.
Speaking about the importance of the Safety and Health at Work Act, Byer-Suckoo observed that the seven years leading up to the declaration of the Act, which was proclaimed on January 1 this year, had provided businesses with adequate time to become familiar with its requirements.
She said: “The Labour Department will be methodically doing examinations across Barbados to see that companies are complying with the various aspects of the legislation…[The Department is] in the habit of inspecting, that is a job that they do … not only to enforce legislation and to prescribe punitive measures, but to assist establishments [in creating] a safety committee.”
Noting that there was a direct link between OSH and efficiency, the Labour Minister asserted: “The idea is to ensure that workers have one less thing to worry about when they come to work, one more reason to be engaged in the workplace… I believe that if you are in your workplace and you’re concerned about your environment, if it is not safe, if the air quality is not safe, if you can slip and fall…
“And then those other things that we’re addressing through our legislation — sexual harassment, [and] discrimination — if you are concerned about things like that … you are going to be less likely to give of your best,” she stressed, adding that the Ministry was striving to create ideal environments which would encourage productivity in workers.
The BL&P demonstration served as an example of the importance of safety and health on the job, as the live line maintenance job saw certified linemen move 24,000 volt conductors to a new pole, with the existing one having been damaged by a vehicular accident.
BL&P supervisor, Reggie Parris, explained that many steps had to be taken before work began, including a traffic and weather assessment; wearing of essential protective equipment; and consulting with team members.
He noted that this type of operation was conducted without an interruption of service to BL& P customers, thus making OSH even more crucial for the technicians.
BL&P Managing Director, Mark King, explained: “Even when we are doing work on lines that are dead, the same procedures [are standard]… We received ISO certification in 2012 and we received an audit in 2013 and it was successful, so we are still certified.”
Addressing the company’s hurricane restoration procedure, King revealed that BL&P’s plans were well under way, as “at the beginning of the year we start to order material well in advance, so that by now we would have been receiving excess material in the event that something happens”.
“Things can and do happen and when they do we step into action,” he said.