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Every accident that happens in the workplace is one too many and could have been avoided. Accidents do not happen in the workplace. The recent accident at the John Fernandes’ wharf on Water Street, Georgetown that caused the life of 36-year-old Sheldon Wilson, could have been prevented. Wilson was a driver employed with the Guyana Stockfeeds Inc., when the truck he was driving plunged overboard, resulting in his death.
When workers leave their family to go to work, they and their family expect they will return home. Industrial accidents rob workers their limbs, and in some instances their lives, and the family of a breadwinner and loved one. These realities, pains and deprivations no employer or government must lose sight of, and no efforts should be spared to make the workplace safe.
It is therefore encouraging to hear Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton expressed concerns about the accidents within the workplace. But there is much more work to ensure safety than acknowledgement of the problem and expression of concern and the Ministry should zero in on the problem like a laser beam.
In the workplace accidents do not happen but are caused. Understanding the causative factors behind accidents are essential to reduction and elimination. Lest it be forgotten or taken for granted, accidents deprive workers from producing, adversely impact their and the family’s economic well-being. Accidents are also hindrance to development of self and society, given the absence from or reduced participation in the production, distribution, and consumption processes.
There exists the necessity for the Occupational Safety and Health Department to be empowered with the requisite human and other resources that would see the department functioning at its optimum and in a manner that would effectively address and eliminate problems associated with workplace safety and health. There is a need for increased participation in understanding Occupational Safety and Health practices which could aid in the improvement of compliance with the practices.
Awareness must be supported by education in order to influence and change behaviour that would not only make the worker aware of the environment, any risk associated therein, but what is required of them to ensure their safety and health. This responsibility is not that alone of the worker but also the employer. And where the employer and worker could partner in eliminating accidents at the workplace such augur well for both and the society as a whole.