Labour Ministry includes COVID-19 checks in health and safety inspections

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Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton on Monday defended the Government’s move to re-establish his Ministry which under the former APNU+AFC administration was absorbed by the Ministry of Social Protection.

Hamilton during his speech on the first day of the National Budget debate placed a lot of emphasis on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) where he noted that the department will continue to expand its response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

According to the Minister, from October – December 2020, the ministry will collaborate with the Ministry of Health and have the OSH staff trained to deliver training programmes to employers and workers in both the public and private sectors inclusive of COVID-19 Protocols.

The Ministry will also be building its technical capacity to train employers in the use of Zoom, Microsoft and Google technology in their workplaces.

Several persons are already being taught Portuguese and Spanish while Mandarin is also being explored to engage foreign workers in Guyana.

The Labour Ministry will be acquiring an all-terrain vehicle to facilitate the inspection visits to workplaces in Georgetown and the hinterland communities.

Minister Hamilton noted that his Ministry will work to improve working conditions environment in Guyana “with the emphasis on preventative rather than curative measures.”

So far, he said help was sought from the International Labour Organization (ILO) which has supplied posters, a workplace video and a range of guidance materials which addressed workplace policies for the COVID-19 Virus, Safe and Healthy return to work, a Ten Step Tool and Teleworking to name a few.

He pointed out that generally inspections will be done in workplaces in all sectors of the economy inclusive of the informal sector.

“However more specifically, it is proposed to conduct inspections in the oil, gas and mining sectors with the emphasis on safe systems and methods of work. In addition, inspections will also focus on safety and health in agriculture with specific reference to the safe use of pesticides,” he said.

According to the Minister, the OSH Department developed a checklist which was used for the monitoring of workplaces.

“This checklist included areas, such as policy, planning, risk assessment, management, communication, prevention and mitigation and arrangements for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases,” he disclosed adding that the implementation of the checklist was done through teleworking and over 200 workplaces were monitored.

While some employers were hesitant, some shared pictures of the wash sinks, sanitation materials and employees wearing masks.

In addition, the Department developed “A Basic Guide for Employers in the Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

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