Remarks by Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour
Dr. the Hon. Kedrick Pickering
on the occasion of the
International Labour Organisation (ILO) World Day for Safety and Health at Work
April 28th 2015
Ladies and gentlemen good morning:
Today, we are here to observe the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) ‘World Day for Safety and Health at Work’, under the theme “Join in Building a Culture of Prevention on Occupational Safety and Health.”
The International Labour Organization (ILO) began observing World Day for Safety and Health at Work in 2003 with a focus on preventing illness and accidents in the workplace.
Here, in the Virgin Islands, we have been recognizing the importance of this day since 2008, with the Health and Safety Unit of the Department of Human Resources leading the charge.
On behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands and as Minister responsible for Labour, I am pleased to lend my voice to this important day and cause.
According to the ILO, “a national occupational safety and health culture is one in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention.”
This means that we all have a collaborative responsibility—employers and employees—to be vigilant in avoiding and averting risks, and reducing if not eliminating, incidents of illnesses and accidents in the workplace.
The statistics that were outlined by the Director of the Social Security Board should raise some concern that this is a very real issue that we all must confront.
Accidents sometimes can be avoided, but it means that we must make a concerted effort to put proper measures in place to mitigate harm. For example, in the construction industry, the wearing of safety garments like hard hats and boots are important and must be required for the job site. If there is new equipment in the workplace, training should be conducted so that the staff is not engaging in trial and error.
Just the other day, I was driving up Fort Hill on my way home. If you are driving on a Tuesday evening you would know that there may be some confusion in the traffic. And as I pulled up, trying to pass and there was an officer standing on the side of the road, directing the traffic. I never saw her, until I was right up-close to her. So, I waited until the traffic had dissolved so that I could tell her, “You know, officer, I couldn’t see you,” the reason being, that she did not have on her reflective clothing. She could have easily been knocked over by a motorist who did not recognise her. My physician instincts come out every time I see the garbage trucks, and the work men, sitting on the back of the trucks and not wearing them. They may not wear clothing that is protective and certainly when they are not wearing masks, it gives me the jitters, thinking of what they are exposed to when they are on these trucks for hours at a time.
As a signatory to the ILO Convention, the Government of the Virgin Islands has a mandate to ensure that good work practices are maintained at workplaces, and to ensure that all instances of poor health and safety are reported.
We firmly believe that organisations must adopt good work practices and guard against complacency. We will continue to do our part as a Government to ensure that both employers and employees are paying attention to those things that could very well be avoided.
At the national level, building and maintaining a culture of prevention on occupational safety and health requires making use of all available means to increase general awareness, knowledge of hazards and risks, and understanding of their prevention and control.
Tripartite national commitment and national actions are essential in fostering lasting improvements in safety and health at work. Enabling the exchange of experience and good practice on occupational safety and health contributes to this purpose.
This is why we must continue to be leaders in promoting safety and health at work, consolidating what has been achieved, as well as sharing the principles of good practice on occupational safety and health in all sectors of the workplace.
We all have a role to play in building a culture of prevention especially as it relates to occupational safety and health, in both the public and private sector. It is not the responsibility of Government alone. It is the responsibility of all of us. We all must be our brother’s keeper. And so we must work, deliberately.
In fact, the Inspection Unit of the Labour Department has been working toward the reduction of illnesses and accidents in the workplace. The 2010 Labour Code has served to strengthen the cause by formalizing the Inspector’s powers and the Department is moving with deliberate speed to ensure that this unit is properly manned to carry out its mandate.
I would like to thank the members of the workplace Health, Safety and Wellness Sub-Committee of the BVI Health and Wellness Advisory Council for their hard work and dedication in highlighting the significance of this day and for creating awareness of health and safety in the workplace. And all the members of the Sub-Committee please stand and be recognized.
Let us with haste move forward with a firm commitment that we will do all we can to make our workplaces safer.
I wish to add that safety and health in the workplace are critically important to one’s productivity. It is important for the employees’ commitment; and an organization’s success. When people feel safe it improves their ability to generate creative ideas, to be innovative and to have the opportunity to think.
The great baseball player of the Negro Leagues, Satchel Paige said, “At times I sits and I thinks and sometimes I just sits.”
Together we must create the partnerships that are needed to bring about the changes we seek in Building a Culture of Prevention on Occupational Safety and Health.
Remember your health is a gift. It is important, you do, your best to protect it, not only on an individual level but to protect it on a collective level.
God bless you and may God continue to bless these Virgin Islands. I thank you very much.