Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 03, 2018 (SKNIS):Stakeholders in government, industry and civil society gathered at the conference room of the Solid Waste Management Corporation on Thursday (May 03) to contribute to the development of a National Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Policy in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The need for such a policy was underscored by the Commissioner of the Department of Labour, Shernel James, as she welcomed representatives to the one-day meeting organized by the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Ecclesiastical Affairs.
“St. Kitts and Nevis over the years has tried and looked at the way forward in terms of a national policy with regards to occupational safety and health,” Ms. James stated, noting her confidence that this latest initiative will constructively advance the creation of such.
It will address issues that take place in the work environment such as slips and falls, radiation, security and decent work. A key component will be the establishment of a proactive mechanism that protects the labour force.
Faron Lawrence, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said that his organization is fully onboard with the establishment of an OSH policy as the creation of safe workplaces are high on the agenda of (CIC) members.
He noted that there are many stories of workers who refuse to wear safety gear provided by their employers citing reasons such as “the gear is uncomfortable, it slows them down, it keeps them hot, and is unnecessary.” Mr. Lawrence also pointed out that some companies also do not live up to their responsibility to issue all of the necessary protective gear to workers, or sufficiently create safe and healthy work spaces.
“Safety at work should always come first,” the Chamber president said. “Even though we are transforming into business modules that are less labour intensive, people are still our most valuable asset. We believe that protecting our assets is a key to success. Exploring avenues that will help us to create a holistic and better environment allows us to achieve our goals and provides the opportunity for meaningful employee engagement within the workplace.”
Some of the notable agencies represented at the consultation are the Ministries of Health, Human Resource, Education, Gender Affairs, and Legal Affairs; the St. Kitts National Youth Parliament Association; St. Kitts Electricity Company Ltd; St. Christopher Air and Seaports Authority; Kittitian Hill; Park Hyatt; St. Christopher Social Security Board; United Workers Union; Teachers Union from St. Kitts and from Nevis, and locally based universities.
President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Trades and Labour Union, Joseph O’Flaherty, noted that health and safety issues should never be taken for granted and recommended that “regular and systemic risk assessments” should take place in the respective work environments as well as training provided for management and employees on OSH.
“We meet here not only for ourselves, or for our present circumstances. We are here too because we are concerned about the future. Our decisions will impact on future generations of citizens and residents of this country,” he stated, and called on the leadership of the Ministry and the Department of Labour to do all that is necessary to advance and complete the process to draft the policy document.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Ron Dublin-Collins, highlighted the wide cross section of persons present at the consultation and said that his ministry, and by extension the government, was proud of its record of stakeholder engagement in national issues. He noted that such consultations are the norm in the efforts to reform and improve labour administration policies in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Mr. Dublin-Collins added “This must only be the start of it. We must go into the highways and byways and address those areas that may not always be under the spotlight but where people labour, where people work, to ensure that any policy that is adopted reaches them at their level.”