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House debates Health and Safety Bill

By Keva Lightbourne, The Nassau Guardian, 28 July 2000

Employees throughout the country were urged to take care to minimize risk to their health and safety and warned not to interfere with any safety precautions that are a part of the workplace, as debate on the Health and Safety Bill got underway in the House of Assembly Thursday.

Minister of Commerce and Agricultural Industry Theresa Moxey-Ingraham introduced the Bill, which is the government's attempt to provide for workers a minimum protection package guaranteed to ensure their health and, safety in the workplace.

Contravention of this Act can result in a $5,000 fine, Moxey-Ingraham said.

The Health and Safety Bill is the third of five controversial Bills to be introduced in Parliament in recent weeks. The Employment Bill and the Minimum Wages Bill have already been debated.

Addressing her colleagues Moxey-Ingraham said "we can not expect to carry our country any further forward with the kind of casual disregard that we have traditionally displayed toward health and safety in the workplace and the health and safety of our workers."

She said much of what the government is attempting to do in this Act will have to be done in concert with a number of codes that presently exist, with a number of pieces of legislation passed recently with regard to the operation of certain facilities.

However, Moxey-Ingraham said there is much more that needs to be done.

She said there is a need for greater awareness and a greater activism on the part of the consumers of the Bahamas.

"We are lax when it comes to consumer advocacy and unfortunately, it seems that for the most part we focus our consumer advocacy on whether something cost $2 or $2.50 as opposed to whether it is safe," Moxey-Ingraham said.

"Whether it is something that we want to have on our shelves; whether it is something we want to have within our boundaries, or whether we are being dumped upon by the industrialized countries of the world giving us chemicals, substances and equipment that are substandard in their own jurisdictions or whether we are allowing ourselves in some instances to become a sick people because of the way we approach our work, Moxey-Ingraham said.

Under the new Act, the minister responsible can designate public as health and safety inspectors. These inspectors may inspect any premises other than private dwellings and they may take police officers with them for the purpose of execution of their duties or any other legally authorized persons with them, and they may take any equipment necessary to a work place in its attempt to determine whether or not the workplace is being operated in a safe and healthy manner.

Once an inspector has entered the workplace, he may direct that matters be left undisturbed. He may take measurements, photocopies and other such recordings necessary for his investigations. He may also take samples or cause a dangerous article or substance to be dismantled and tested.

The inspector may seize any article or a substance or detain it for examination or to ensure that particular substance is not tampered with or he can seize it to hold it for evidence for further investigations.

The inspector may also call for the records and any other data of the establishment; he may require the cooperation of the person responsible in an establishment (not necessarily the owner because he may not be there).

An inspector when calling for testing, examination, etc. will do so in the presence of a responsible person in the organization at that time. The health and safety inspector may issue two kinds of notice - the Prohibition Notice and Improvement Notice.

When an inspector enters a premise and has determine that something has gone wrong he may issue an Improvement Notice and require the person to remedy the situation in a specified time.

The Prohibition Notice can actually close down an establishment at any particular time. The inspector may serve a Prohibition Notice if he is of the opinion that serious risk or injury may result from the activity continuing. With this notice the inspector has to state his opinion, specify the matters he is particularly concerned about and must also direct that the specific activity must not be carried out by the person to whom he is serving the notice any further until remedies have been made.