Poor air quality and the lack of adequate cleaning of workspaces continue to be of grave concern for Minister of Labour Colin Jordan, who delivered comments at a service to mark the start of Occupational Safety Week at the James Street Methodist Church on Sunday.
During his brief remarks, Jordan noted that several areas within the scope of workplace safety go unnoticed too often. He said these include mental health and general wellness, with the standard of air quality in such close-knit spaces also being of interest to his Ministry, particularly in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even with some workers participating in flexible work arrangements, indoor air quality continues to be an area of concern in workplaces. Issues range from the effects of re-occupying spaces that were closed for an extended period, to reduced temperatures in workspaces because there are fewer persons in those spaces, to increased particulates in the environment due to the irregular cleaning of less used areas. Some of these are not issues that you thought about before,” he said.
“The ability to refer to standards is important for employers in undertaking their role in ensuring that workplace conditions are maintained, such that the workplace does not contribute to ill health or illness on the part of those who come to that workplace.”
The Minister also said, that the Safety and Health at Work Act should be the signature blueprint for employers and employees to follow when training to maintain a safety and efficient work environment that will support maximum productivity.
“Employers have a responsibility under the Safety and Health at Work Act, to conduct the necessary assessment of risk to ensure that any circumstance that is likely to impair the safety and health of their employees in the course of their work, is eliminated or minimized,” Jordan said.
“Workers have an equally serious responsibility to adhere to procedures that are designed to eliminate or minimize the risk to their own safety and health,” he stressed.
The Minister also expressed his hope in seeing safety committees within organizations, be allowed to fully function as they should, with the full backing of employers, and the support of employees, if safety for all is to be constantly maintained.
“The role and responsibility of a safety committee in managing workplace conditions can be enhanced by putting in place activities and programmes to minimize risk and to encourage food safety practices in the workplace. It is equally important that joint safety committees be fully constituted and fully functional. It is also required by the law.”
Jordan also said that the Ministry of Labour will play host to several webinars in recognition of Occupational Safety week that will focus on indoor air quality, preventing violence and harassment at work, the National Workplace Wellness policy for Barbados, and tips for safety committees. (SB)