Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The declaration of ‘National Petroleum Day’ on 12th December 2019 signaled Guyana’s entry to the era of petroleum statehood. It became clear that we had to change the way we work in order to compete for labour in the international market and to exploit the petroleum economy. This meant, most of all, that workers who generate wealth should be kept safe from preventable disability, disease and death.
Former President David Granger expressed the opinion on his weekly programme − The Public Interest – that change was inevitable and that unhealthy or unsafe workplaces were bound to impair workers’ productivity. Sadly, one workplace-related death occurs every fortnight on average, most often at construction sites and in the forestry and mining industries. The records show that 32 workers were killed in 2020; 27 died in 2021; 21 died in 2022 and 24 workers have been killed in 2023 so far. Earlier this year, a 13-year-old ‘boy-worker’ died after falling from a lorry in the Pomeroon-Supenaam Region.
Granger pointed out, further, that the majority of workers in Guyana’s labour force of about 290, 000 are employed in only four sectors – agriculture and food production; forestry and mining; retail and wholesale trade and the public sector which included defence, law-enforcement, nursing and teaching. Given the current shortage of skilled labour, it was essential to create a safe and healthy employment environment to prevent work-related disability and disease and protect workers’ health.
The former president recommended several measures to ensure the best practice to protect workers in the new economy. These include educating employers and workers about the safe use of equipment, identifying, reporting and responding to hazards; appointing professional officers within every regional administration to enforce safety regulations; establishing safety and health committees at workplaces, including at school dormitories and military and police barracks, to ensure that employers and employees are aware of the policies and procedures to prevent accidents and fires and mandating that employers provide personal protection equipment, such as safety glasses, gloves, hard hats and respirators, in addition to installing first-aid and fire-fighting equipment.
He advised, further, that workplace deaths could be eliminated by enforcing existing legislation − Accidental Death and Personal Injuries Act; Employment of Young Persons and Children’s Act; Environmental Protection Act; Mining Act, providing for employers’ responsibility for workers’ ‘health, safety and welfare; Occupational Safety and Health Act, mandating the establishment of ‘mine rescue stations’ in the field and the Recruiting of Workers Act, mandating licensing employers before recruiting workers.
Granger reminded that the A Partnership of National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) administration had established a trained Corps of Wardens and re-introduced Mounted Police to enforce occupational safety regulations and prevent disability and deaths in far-flung hinterland work sites. He called upon employers to agree, voluntarily, to devise a Common Code of Workers Safety before undertaking contracts for public works.
The Former President expressed the opinion that workers’ safety and health are essential to the new, modern economy hence workers should not risk dying simply to make a living.