The Labour Department has reminded businesses they are required by law to have safety and health procedures in place and ensure they are properly administered and modified where necessary.
The Labour Department’s Safety and Health Officer, Errol Goodridge, told a one-day workshop on Emerging Issues in Health and Safety in the Workplace of the legal requirements of risk assessment for business processes and a workplace overseer to ensure health and safety standards are maintained.
Goodridge said: “The general principle of the Safety and Health at Work Act is to guarantee safety, health and welfare at work for all employees in Barbados. It requires organisations to do a risk assessment before they undertake any process or activity or use any equipment and put measures in place to protect their workers.”
He said that the law mandates companies employing 75 or more people to establish a Safety and Health Committee, while smaller operations (with up to 25 people) were expected to choose a Health and Safety representative, whose job it was to “liaise between bosses and the workforce on safety matters”.
Goodridge, a 16-year Ministry of Labour veteran who previously worked at the Arawak cement plant, outlined the different aspects of the so-called PDCA Model – Plan, Do, Check and Act – which covers the full gamut of occupational safety and health issues.
He said: “In the planning phase, you must create a hazard profile for your organisation. For example in an office complex or a call centre, you will have to concentrate on psychosocial and ergonomic issues, but in a factory or engineering workshop, you will have to look at different things. The aim is to know what hazards exist, what aspects of the Safety and Health at Work Act apply to you, then you set your safety objectives and plan accordingly.
“In this process, you must keep dialogue open with the workforce. You do not necessarily have to spend lots of money sending workers on training courses; set up a suggestions box, encourage them to submit their ideas, and then discuss the suggestions with them.”
The “check” element is important for companies once they establish such procedures to ensure that they were indeed effective. Goodridge said: “There are two ways to measure, namely proactive and reactive monitoring and you have to do a bit of both.
“Proactive involves workplace inspections to see that standards are being met, while an example of reactive monitoring is accident investigation.
“In that respect, companies must develop a culture where staff can be ensured management is not looking for scapegoats when something goes wrong, but looking out for the overall welfare of everyone.”
After companies carry out their audits, Goodridge advised: “If you encounter any discrepancies or mismatches based on your audit, seek to rectify them, because the aim is continuous improvement and it is not in your best interest to become complacent.”
He also called on firms to give their safety and health committees and representatives a high profile within the organisation, given the importance of safety and health to the overall wellbeing of the workforce and its positive effect on productivity and worker morale.