The health of some agricultural workers in Barbados are at risk, according to the the umbrella body of trade unions.
And Wayne Walrond, the safety and health representative of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), is calling for the use of protective gear to guard against respiratory illnesses and, even death, that could result from pesticide use.
“The congress is extremely concerned about those instances where agricultural workers fail to wear the adequate protective gear and equipment. Persons have been observed applying pesticides without even having any respiratory equipment in some instances,” Walrond noted.
He was speaking at the start of a seminar to commemorate World Day For Safety And Health At Work at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre under the theme Safety And Health In The Use Of Chemicals At Work.
The trade unionist is also worried that indiscriminate use and disposal of chemicals could compromise the country’s ecosystem.
“This has implications for the quality of our underground water and every precaution must be taken against possible contamination. It must be our mandate to preserve our aquatic life and the fishing industry –– which provides food and employment –– that it’s not adversely affected by pollution and contamination,” he said.
In her remarks, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo warned that another group of employees –– those operating in hair and nail salons –– might be unknowingly putting their lives and those of their customers at risk by using chemicals in small areas without proper ventilation.
She served notice that the Labour Department would soon begin inspections to deal with the problem.
According to the minister, this is not aimed at making life “more difficult for these small businesses but essentially to make their quality of life better in the long run”.
“I suspect that many persons dealing with nails and hair are probably not even aware of the risks that they’re exposing themselves, and their clients to, by operating and using these chemicals in rooms that are not properly ventilated,” she said.
While Byer Suckoo praised the creation of “green” jobs, she was quick to state that all efforts should be made to ensure these did not create new health hazards. She noted there had been a high level of compliance with the Safety And Health At Work Act since its proclamation last year.