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More inspectors needed to enforce OSH laws

Published: 
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Executive director, Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OSHA), Carolyn Sancho, during yesterday’s meeting of the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee in Port-of-Spain. At right is OSHA Chairman Dr Surendra Dhanraj. PICTURE SHIRLEY BAHADUR

The Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OSHA) has only 16 inspectors, when it should have 48, and needs more inspectors to enforce the OSHA Act proactively rather than being reactive as it is now.

That was the picture of the OSH Authority and agency, confirmed yesterday via statements from Authority executive director Carolyn Sancho when she and other Authority officials appeared before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on local authorities.

JSC chairman Ian Roach said the biggest problem facing the Authority and agency was lack of resources: from funding to human capital to do work and even a physical home for OSH.

“It’s a serious impediment,” he said.

Sancho said out of 152 posts there are 87 vacancies and the Authority’s effectiveness was about 50 to 60 per cent. If there were more inspectors, the Authority’s agency would be proactive rather than reactive and could better enforce the Act, she said.

OSHA chairman Surendra Dhanraj, acknowledging the Authority’s challenges, gave it a passing grade, but not 100 per cent since he admitted there are deficiencies in enforcing the OSHA Act. Sancho said funding was the problem since the Authority’s contract jobs cost $48 million and OSHA’s $21 million allocation is inadequate. Accommodation for inspectors is also necessary.

OSHA chief inspector (acting) Franz Brisbane said there are 14 inspectors in Trinidad and two in Tobago and with 210 accidents being reported, the Authority has to prioritise. A backlog of 906 cases was recently reduced to 110.

Labour Ministry Permanent Secretary Natalie Willis said the impediments were recognised and the Ministry is trying to increase the number of inspectors—with about three currently—so the Authority could enforce the OSH Act. Amendments to the act are currently being reviewed for draft policy.

OSHA deputy legal director Pettal John-Beerens said OSHA needs to have increased fines, an independent commission to probe health and safety matters, reviewing the time period to report accidents, deeper definitions under the Act and more autonomy.

Sancho said the Public Services Association’s 89-91 Abercromby Street Port-of-Spain, headquarters has not been OSHA compliant and is now before the Industrial Court on that.

The Authority also served notice on its governing Labour Ministry to close OSHA’s own Duncan Street office. The Authority is in the process of obtaining Couva land for a new headquarters.

Roach noted several Government divisions lack the necessary health and safety committees— the Prime Minister’s Office (CAST) Tobago unit, the Health Ministry, T&T Defence Force, Cadet Force, service commissions, the Social Development Ministry, National Security (Probation), Public Administration and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management.

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