Safer region ILO’s hope
THE?International Labour Organisation (ILO) has established a regional occupational safety and health programme to bring workers up to speed on how to deal with harmful chemicals, dust, noise and air quality.
ILO executive director Dr Assane Diop of Senegal made the official announcement yesterday at a Press briefing at the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU)?headquarters at Solidarity House.
Before an audience that included director of the ILO?office in the Caribbean, Dr Ana Romero, and fellow ILO?delegate Sir Roy Trotman, Diop said it would be a full partnership between workers and employers and it already had the blessing of Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo.
Diop, a former minister of health and education in Senegal, added that there needed to be a new approach to occupational safety and health.
Sir Roy, general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, said the main plank of the programme was on educating workers across the Caribbean, including Barbados, on occupational safety and health and moving towards making the region a safer and environmentally friendlier place.
“Even before this project is fully completed, I want to know that we will have a healthier Caribbean environment and I want to believe that we will be able to have persons who are working at their workplaces in safer conditions and being able to enjoy safe workplaces.
“I want to know that they are in positions where they understand the conditions and they can make preliminary decisions for themselves regarding whether the environments in which they are working are safe, or whether there are conditions for which they should get the competent authorities in the Caribbean to do checkings,” he said.
Sir Roy said that training would explore areas in the worksite such as the use of adverse chemicals, dust, noise and air quality.
He said that competent inspectors would do the training to ensure that the work environment was healthy and “where they can’t do it with their eyes or ears, they will have the capacity to measure because we will have hygiene measurement instruments”.
“Many of us in the region are in very high agricultural areas and in order to get proper yields, we are [using] quite a lot of chemical additives in our products and sometimes those chemicals go into our running water and we need to be in position to measure what it is that we are consuming.
“At the same time, we are doing a lot of spraying and that spraying in the Caribbean goes downwind and sometimes the people who do the spraying do not have themselves covered and protected. There has to be protection in those areas,” Sir Roy added.
Romero said the ILO?had allocated nearly US$500 000 for the one-year training project which started in Trinidad and would be introduced in Guyana, where the focus would be on agriculture and forestry workers.
“The initial request was for US$1.6 million and it was supposed to be a project of two to three years’ duration. However, as a result of the recent global financial crisis, there had to be downward revisions to the ILO allocation of resources across all its member states for work to be done and we have received US$450 000 for implementation in 2011 for the Caribbean.
“We see this as providing a foundation on which we can then seek additional funding so that you can scale up the results that we expect to achieve,” Romero said.