Workplace deaths in agri. sector flagged by Labour Ministry

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Though there has been a decrease in both the number of workplace deaths and accidents in 2021, Guyana’s Labour Ministry is concerned with the increase in deaths and mishaps in the agricultural sector.

According to figures provided by Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Consultant at the ministry, Gwenneth King, there was only one workplace death recorded in the agricultural sector in 2019.

In 2020, the number of deaths increased to three and in 2021, four deaths were recorded.

Though not the largest number of workplace deaths recorded in any of the three years, the consultant noted that the increasing number of deaths in this sector has triggered some concerns at the ministry.

Worsening these concerns, however, is the fact that the largest number of non-fatal workplace accidents in Guyana, from 2019 to 2021, were recorded in this sector.

In 2019, there were 111 such accidents while there were 203 accidents recorded in 2020 and 176 in 2021.

Comparatively, there were 277 non-fatal accidents across all sectors in 2019, 372 in 2020 and 337 in 2021.

The Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton also shared these concerns.

“I believe more deaths are happening in agriculture but it is happening silently,” Hamilton said while addressing a conference organised by the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AMCHAM) on Thursday.

Consequently, the Labour Ministry has engaged numerous agricultural bodies on reviewing the work done in the sector. Hamilton said a joint committee will examine what are the root causes of the issues.

Previously, the increasing number of workplace deaths in the mining sector prompted the establishment of another joint committee to investigate the issue. And Hamilton reported that the deaths in this sector had declined.

Based on the statistics provided, there were eight deaths in the mining sector in 2019. That number increased to 14 in 2020 but dropped to 12 at the end of 2021.

Hamilton emphasised that as Guyana pursues a new transformational pathway, a much greater focus on operational health and safety is crucial.

“Most of the deaths could have been avoided.

“The issue for us at the Ministry of Labour is not an employer-employee issue; it is a national issue that we have to collectively arrest,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, AMCHAM President Devindra Kissoon expressed hope that the body would be able to steer local companies towards increasing their focus on OSH.

He also said, “From a commercial standpoint, there is a strong correlation between profitability and productivity with workplace safety.”

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