Labour Ministry to engage MoE on poor OSH practices

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

The Ministry of Labour has indicated that it will engage the Ministry of Education about its failure to adhere to Occupational Health and Safety protocols following the recent circulation of a photo that was posted by the Minister of Education herself.

The photo showed an employee working from dangerous heights and during heavy downpours, without the use of protective gear at a primary school in Waramuri Village in Moruca, Region One (Barima/Waini).

The photo in question was shared by Minister of Education Priya Manickchand on Sunday.

It further shows the worker with an umbrella in one hand and a phone in the other, on a rooftop, in pounding rain, attempting to install internet at the school.

While the post was made by the Minister to highlight hurdles the ministry has to overcome to meaningfully serve the nation, the government agency was scrutinised by the public for not prioritising the health and safety of the employee.

Guyana’s Occupational Safety and Health Act stipulates that the general duty on all employers is “to provide and maintain a safe, sound, healthy and secure working environment as far as is reasonably practicable.”

In this regard, employers must provide employees with all equipment, material, protective devices and clothing suitable for them to carry out their respective duties.

Additionally, it is the employer’s duty to point out occupational hazards and develop solutions to mitigate the possibility of someone being “injured or worse, killed”.

In an invited comment on the issue, Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton explained that the action depicted in the photo posted by the Minister should not have happened, and that his Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health department will look into the matter.

“So, from the standpoint of health and safety, things like that should not happen. We would hope that the authorities over there will be kind enough to pay attention to people’s life and limbAnd thirdly, the fact that now you’re calling me on the matter, I will confer with them for them to pay some attention to the infringement.”

Efforts to contact Education Ministry officials on the matter proved futile.

Occupational deaths

In 2023, the Ministry of Labour recorded a total of 20 occupational deaths, due to accidents in Mining, Construction, Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors.

Of the 20 deaths recorded, nine occurred in the mining sector in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) while six were recorded in the construction sector.

Outside of the fatalities, the Ministry recorded 175 non-fatal accidents that were investigated out of the 577 reports received. However, majority of these reports emanated from the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

In instances where breaches of the Occupational Safety and Health Act were identified, the Labour Ministry offered written and verbal advice.

These figures were provided by Subject Minister Joseph Hamilton during his ministry’s End of Year press conference.

At the time, Minister Hamilton explained that the figures were lower when compared to the number of fatalities recorded in 2022. In 2020, there were 32 workplace deaths; in 2021, the number decreased to 27 deaths and then in 2022, there were 21 deaths.