The Labour Department is working on developing a robust labour inspection system, including for the emerging oil and gas sector as it looks to update applicable laws on safety and health.
This was announced at the Guyana Safety Forum Wednesday morning at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
According to Alicia Jerome-Reece, Ministerial Advisor in the Ministry of Social Protection, Guyana’s Occupational Safety and Health Act, which dates back to 1997, is being revised with the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and will make provisions for regulating safety and health in the oil and gas sector.
She said with 16 major oil discoveries since 2015 and the huge potential economic gains expected, it is justifiable that emphasis is placed on the oil and gas sector.
“As the Government of Guyana continues to prioritise its preparedness prior to first oil, such as the drafting of the Local Content Policy and the passage of the Natural Resources Fund Act, among others, we are cognizant that it is critical to ensure that the required regulatory framework and laws are in force to guarantee the safety of workers in the new and emerging oil and gas sector in Guyana,” said Jerome-Reece.
Speaking at the opening of the Guyana Safety Forum, she said the Occupational Safety and Health Policy launched earlier this year is in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Convention of the ILO and Guyana’s decent work country programme of 2017 to 2021.
She said the policy is guided by the need to identify occupational risks and hazards and control them at the source.
“The Government will work to ensure that the occupational safety and health of workers is protected through an adequate and appropriate system of enforcement of safety and health standards including a robust and effective labour inspection system within our ministry. Training has already commenced for the oil and gas sector,” she stated.
Mrs Jerome-Reece said the country’s Occupational Safety and Health Policy also focuses on the development of a national preventative and safety and health culture that includes collaboration at all levels.
“It is applicable to all categories of workers and workplaces in all sectors and spheres of economic activity – in the field of factory, office, private and public agencies, informal sector, and the local and foreign investors.”
The Ministerial Advisor noted that Government employers and workers all have a shared responsibility to ensure that the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels.
“Workers have the right to refuse or stop unsafe work when they have reasonable justification to believe that there is an imminent and serious risk to their safety and health,” she declared.
Jerome-Reece said the Government, through the Ministry of Social Protection is committed to ensuring that the safety and health of workers is maintained at suitable standards as enshrined in the Constitution, the country’s labour laws and the ILO conventions Guyana has ratified.
Speaking of private sector development, she said to be competitive, companies need to ensure that their occupational safety and health standards are well within the international regulatory framework.
Jerome-Reece said the Government welcomes the initiative of the Energy Chamber of Trinidad to hold the second Guyana Safety Forum as it would allow the exchange of ideas among industry experts and hopefully provide practical ideas that can be immediately put into practice.