Too many work-place accidents

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The number of industrial and work-related accidents in T&T is “alarming” said Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus.
“Despite the arduous work of the Ministry and OSHA, the statistics for T&T on industrial accidents and fatalities are quite alarming. Statistics reveal that for the period 2006 to 2015 a total of 102 fatal accidents occurred in the workplace. The industry with the largest number of fatalities was the construction industry, which recorded 33 fatal accidents for the aforementioned period,” she said.
Baptiste-Primus spoke yesterday at the Labour Ministry’s two-day tripartite Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) consultation on issues to be considered in the development of legislation to amend the Act at the Radisson hotel, Port-of-Spain. The OSH Act was proclaimed in 2006 and replaced the Factories Ordinance of 1948, which was seen as outdated and not meeting the needs of a rapidly developing T&T in the 21st Century.
The Factories Ordinance only had jurisdiction over workers in factories and left the majority of country’s employees unprotected.
She said the Labour Ministry recognizes the direct link between excellent health and safety practices in the workplace and the increase in the levels of productivity of workers and continues to promote decent work as the framework within which this can accomplished.
“Fewer injuries and occupational disasters mean that more people are at work, which in turn will contribute to higher levels of innovation and productivity. Ultimately, greater productivity redounds, not only to enterprise, but to the country as a whole.”
She said the consultation workshop held to gather views on the amendment of the OSH Act represents the work the Government has been doing on reforming the industrial relation laws of the country.
“To date the Ministry has undertaken nine, national tripartite stakeholder consultations beginning in January 2016, with the Co-operative Societies Act, then moving to consultations in respect of the Industrial Relations Act, Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, Basic Terms and Conditions of Work, the Friendly Societies Act, with the most recent consultation being held in January 2017 in respect of the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies Act.”
She also said notes are before the Cabinet for consideration concerning the amendment to the Industrial Relations Act and the amendment to the Retrenchment and Severance Benefit Act.
“This country will never again experience another ArcelorMittal again,” she said.
Dr. Victor Coombs, Chairman of OSHA who also spoke at the opening ceremony said increased legal enforcement, which includes identification and commencement of prosecution of 800 cases of non-reporting accidents from 2014 to 2016 has resulted in a number of victories in court.
“This has the potential to collect fines totaling $16 million which is to be paid into the Consolidated Fund. The fine for non-reporting of accidents if convicted and found guilty is $20,000 per case. So if a company has not reported 10 cases of accidents then multiply that $20,000 by 10,” he said.

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