We observe beginning of Occupational Safety and Health Month 2010, under the theme “Emerging Risks and New Patterns of Prevention in a Changing World of Work”.The theme for this year observance is most appropriate for the protection of workers and their families as we face the challenges of the economic impact affecting countries globally. As companies worldwide are forced to decrease their workforce in an effort to remain economically viable and sustain production, we should be cognizant of the fact that it’s the workers who continue to bear the brunt of the effects. These include low workers morale, increase in stress, increases in accidents, and non compliance with Occupational Safety and Health laws.
As Guyana joins the world in observing Occupational Safety and Health month, we should be reminded that deaths and injuries takes a particularly heavy toll on developing countries where a large number of workers are engaged in hazardous activities such as agriculture, fishing, logging and mining. A healthy worker is a productive worker who contributes significantly to the overall improvement of the economic status of the company and overall improvement of the country as a whole. Therefore, all workers regardless of their occupation should enjoy the basic human right of a safe and healthy workplace.
Workplace well-being means the promotion of a healthy workforce and a healthy workplace, as a vital component of improving, workplace productivity and performance, the long term wellbeing of workers and their families, national health and development and reducing pressure on health and social security systems.
I take this opportunity to invite all government agencies, employers organizations and workers organizations to implement the workplace Worker’s Health promotion and well-being at work program which focuses on the promotion of health among all workers and their families and within the community through preventative and assistance programmes in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse, tobacco, HIV/AIDS, stress and violence at work. In all these areas, and particularly drug and alcohol abuse we can utilize the International Labour Organization’s comparative advantage and experience of using the social dialogue approach. This approach in other countries has resulted in the implementation of very successful workplace and community initiatives, with the involvement of employers, workers, governments, public services and NGOs, to address these problems.
It is true that social dialogue brings together a wide range of partners to concentrate on and bring into the open issues for which the natural reaction is often to ignore the problem, pretend it does not affect the company or profession concerned, or get rid of those concerned. Many employers maintain that their workplace is not affected by the problem, or ignore it in the hope that it will resolve itself. These responses merely serve to conceal problems which would continue to have an important detrimental effect on safety, performance, health and well-being. Alternatively, employers may choose to dismiss problematic employees, with the result that their problems are passed on to another enterprise or to the community.
Additionally, the social dialogue approach helps to form networks in the workplace and beyond, which can include families, schools and public authorities, on issues where lasting and effective progress can only be made through changes in social attitudes. Practices and attitudes relating to tobacco, drugs and alcohol, violent behaviour and HIV/AIDS can only be modified in the long term through changes in behaviour and social attitudes. The workplace not only offers direct access to many of the persons most at risk, but is also an effective channel for reaching workers’ families and, through its central position in the community, other areas of society, such as schools and social services.
The social dialogue approach is a valuable means of developing close and mutually beneficial partnerships which can be useful in many other areas of working life. For example, companies which have implemented ILO programmes to combat drug and alcohol abuse have found them to be important instruments for developing social dialogue and partnerships. In certain cases, this has provided a good basis for reaching agreement on other issues, such as the training and restructuring required for the adoption of new technologies and work techniques, as well as for the development of broader-based health promotion programmes for workers and their families. Time spent in developing partnerships to improve workplace health and well-being is an investment is the most important asset of any company or organization, its workers. It is also an investment in the social context within which a company or organization operates, and therefore in its future.
I take this opportunity to appeal to all employers, employers, government agencies, NGO’S and trade unions to unsure that all employees enjoy the basic human right of a safety and healthy workplace.
On behalf of the National Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health I look forward to your involvement and partnership in the implementation of the workplace worker’s health promotion and well-being at work program. By taking steps to implement this program, we are investing in our most important asset, the worker.