Health and safety in the workplace is one of the most highly discussed concerns in industries throughout Trinidad and Tobago and there is a growing need for both employers and employees to be more aware of this problem.
This issue is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 2004 which was amended in February 2006.
Employers should be aware that the purpose of implementing occupational safety and health programmes is to foster a safe and healthy work environment which is imperative for the reduction of unnecessary costs and for a more productive work environment.
Employers may question investing in their workers and may not see the benefits of doing so but safety and health in the workplace is critical for moral, financial and legal reasons.
For employers, moral obligation is one of the main reasons for occupational, safety and health and this would involve the protection of employees' lives and health on the job which creates a safer and more comfortable environment. Occupational safety and health (OSH) can also reduce company cost due to employee injury and illness in terms of medical care, sick leave and disability benefits. There are also some legal elements relating to the compensatory and preventative effects of laws that protect workers' safety and health.
Employers can also benefit from having a safe and comfortable environment for their employees. To reiterate, when workers are comfortable productivity increases, which in turn generates high profitability and ultimately growth.
Statistics from the Industrial Court revealed that there were two (2) OSH cases reported in 2009 and 2010 . On September 23, 2009 OSHA case complaints Nos 1-4, 5-10 and 11 of 2007 arose between the Inspector of Factories (Complainant) and NH International (Caribbean) Limited, Safety Access and Support Systems Limited and Turner Alpha Limited, defendants one, two and three respectively.
The case was necessary because of an incident involving the collapse of scaffolding at the Customs and Excise Building in Port of Spain, following which 11 complaints were brought by the complainant. However, after hearing both sides the case was dismissed.
On July 30, 2010 there was another case between OSHA and N&S Electrical Company Limited. This case involved the death of a worker on the job and the managing director, on behalf of the employer, pleaded guilty. The Court accepted the employer's guilty plea and ordered them to pay a fine of $45,000 for the benefit of the deceased's estate in addition to money spent on funeral arrangements, money for maintenance of children and also a lump sum of $140,000.
Both cases could have been avoided if better safety measures were put in place by the employer. This is why employers need to be educated and trained on how to prevent such mishaps occurring on the job.
Employers need not to be afraid or panic with the laws stated in the Act. It simply gives employers the opportunity to do what they should already be doing but in a formal context as opposed to doing it casually. It should be recognised that monies spent on occupational safety and health in the workplace is considered as an investment in the company and by extension the workers.
The economic pressures that industries are currently facing caused employers to recognise the need to implement a proper occupational safety and health systems in order to minimise costly mishaps. However, the problem that most employers and employees face is that they lack knowledge of the dos and don'ts within the workplace to protect their safety and health.
To widen your horizon and knowledge capacity you are invited to attend the OSH symposium held by the Employers' Solution Centre at The Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) Hotel in Port of Spain on September 28.
This symposium will be highly beneficial to organisations as emphasis will be placed on the central role health, safety and environment plays in staff productivity; the profitability and sustainability of the organisation, the reduction of litigation claims against the organisation as well as ensuring the organisations are viewed as a good corporate citizen.
For further information please contact our office at 675-5873.