Minister of Labour, Dr Esther Byer, has expressed concern about “a culture of recklessness” which she sees taking root in Barbados. She is calling on residents to help stem the problem before it finds its way into the workplace.
She made the observation today as she addressed a one-day occupational health and safety seminar at the Barbados Light & Power Company’s (BL&P) conference room. The issue of occupational health and safety at work came under the microscope as Barbados joined the rest of the world in the observance of the International Labour Organization (ILO)-sponsored World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
“I am very concerned about the things I see on the road with motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. And if the culture of recklessness that we see on the road is reflected in our workplaces, then we will not be able to curb the incidents of workplace accidents,” Dr Byer said.
“We see too many people, pedestrians for example, who do not cross the street correctly. Should government take responsibility for that? For educating, maybe, but all of us have a role to play. We have to instill that culture of safety and health. We can’t wait until adults get into the workplace then to try to instill safety practices,” she said.
The minister added: “We see bicyclists doing crazy things on the streets with traffic zooming up and down and they are doing all kinds of crazy things . . . I see motorcyclists on the streets and the risks that they take . . . We need to combat that culture of recklessness. We need to instill instead a culture of safety and a respect for our own well-being.”
She said ILO reports suggested that every year over 475 million people were negatively impacted by unfavourable work conditions, resulting in the loss of about 4 per cent of global GDP (gross domestic product) or about US$2.8 trillion in direct and indirect costs.
“It is clear from this information that a global change in safety and health culture is therefore very necessary to combat this phenomenon. And a key component in this change will be the embracing of a culture of prevention on occupational safety and health,” Dr Byer said.
“Barbados must also be a part of this changing culture. At the national level, building and maintaining a culture of prevention requires the utilization of all available means,” she went on, adding that all stakeholders had an important role to play.
During the seminar, representatives from BL&P, Massy Stores, the Barbados Employers Confederation (BEC), Sol and the Ministry of Labour shared experiences, plans and systems they have put in place to address issues surrounding occupational safety and health.
Dr Byer also called for greater focus to be placed on the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases, pointing out “they do have an impact on workplace well-being”. “Many organizations in Barbados would have reported lost time because of people with chronic non-communicable diseases . . . it is not just in the private sector but also in the public sector,” she said.