Suggesting that more people have been falling ill or getting hurt in the workplace, health experts today said more hectic lifestyles, together with so-called buildings and workplace health and safety issues, are taking their toll on national productivity.
Doctors, Ministry of Health officials and other figures in occupational health and safety discussed Emerging Issues In Health and Safety in the Workplace at a one-day workshop organised by the training consultancy firm, Regal Development Solutions, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Dr Brian Charles, the former head of the accident and emergency department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who now runs the Sandy Crest and Coverley Medical Centres, expressed concern that so far this year, his clinics were seeing as many as one in ten patients who had fallen ill on the job.
Dr Charles said: “For the second quarter of 2019, six per cent of the attendees at the Sandy Crest Medical Centre came owing to work-related health and safety issues. That is, companies sent them to us after they had fallen ill or sustained injuries that required medical attention while on the job.
“Meanwhile, at Coverley, which caters to people on the south and east coast, that figure was eleven per cent. Now if one of ten people come to a clinic for occupational safety and health matters, that is a significant amount of people getting ill while at work.”
Minister of Labour Colin Jordan pointed to modern technology which had brought new challenges to the occupational safety and health landscape as well.
He said: “Recent changes in the work environment [have] brought issues such as stress, fatigue and burnout into sharper focus, and for many people, there is now a blurred and increasingly almost non-existent demarcation between work duties and their personal life.
“Rest and relaxation are often overlooked and underrated in today’s society, which places emphasis on a constant state of busyness.
“Those most prone to fatigue are people who work a shift system, whether night shifts or long and irregular hours. Sometimes they work double shifts to fill in for absent colleagues, for bigger paycheques or to meet unrealistic deadlines.
“Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, and sleep deprivation can have adverse effects on mental and physical health.
“Without adequate sleep, they won’t be able to carry out their duties effectively, which will ultimately affect overall productivity.”
Noting that his ministry had produced a National Workplace Wellness Policy in collaboration with the Barbados Workers Union, Jordan called on more businesses to concentrate on providing psychological first aid, to help workers deal with on-the-job mental health and stress-related issues.
With Occupational Safety and Health Week was being observed next week, he also urged companies to hold workshops for their staff on workplace health and safety.