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Bigger focus on SMEs

Marlon Madden

Bigger focus on SMEs

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As Barbados joins the rest of the region in practising good occupational safety and health, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being assured that greater priority will be given to them.
This assurance was given during the opening of a two day International Labour Organization (ILO) Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Workshop last Thursday.
The workshop was held at the Barbados Workers’ Union’s (BWU) Headquarters at Solidarity House, St Michael.
During her remarks, Minister of Labour Esther Byer-Suckoo noted that in a 2009 needs assessment survey conducted in several Caribbean territories, it was found that SMEs needed more assistance in establishing and managing safety and health in the workplace.
“This [survey] identified those sectors of Caribbean economies which were determined to be vulnerable, especially as it related to environmental impacts. As such, small and medium size enterprises were considered to be one of the sectors requiring assistance to improve their current concept of safety, health and environmental management. This will become relevant as improvements to current safety and health legislation will embrace these organizations,” said Byer-Suckoo.
She noted that SMEs were faced with a number of challenges especially as the economic downturn persists.
“In this current economic environment a lot of emphasis is being placed on entrepreneurship, yet serious environmental incidents can severely affect the bottom line of small and medium size enterprises. Such problems include lack of knowledge of legislative safety and health requirements, limited input such as time, money and staff and a lack of knowledge of the economic advantages of good occupational safety and health practice”.
She told participants that even though at the outset it might appear that implementing measures to improve occupational safety and health was costly, when viewed against the expense associated with inadequate management of safety and health, a decision to promote safety and health had proven one of the most beneficial business decisions.
The labour minister also called for a united effort from both employers and their workers along with government in establishing and maintain good occupational safety and health practices.
“The collective approach to the management of occupational safety and health and environment is essential because the impacts felt within an organization as a result of good and even poor occupational safety and health practices will no doubt have a positive or negative effect on the productivity levels and economic future of the entire nation,” she said.