Stuart Paris, president of the Builders and Contractors Association of Dominica
Stuart Paris, president of the Builders and Contractors Association of Dominica

Occupational health and safety is the main issue facing the Builders and Contractors Association of Dominica (BCAD) as revealed at their Annual General Meeting on December 30, 2014.

"We believe the most important capital in the industry is the human capital. We believe our first duty and obligation is to develop and protect the human element operating within the industry," said BCAD President Stewart Paris.

Hence, high on the agenda for the BCAD is education, training and certification of the workers in the construction industry, Paris said.

"We believe the only way Dominica can position its local construction industry in the future for the presence of globalization, in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy is to invest heavily in the information, education, training and certification of our people", he said. "In addition we would like the see the important subject of occupational health and safety on the front burner of the highest level of our nation's plan and agenda in 2015. The personal protection and safety of workers in the workplace in Dominica cannot continue to be an option left to employees and employers to exercise if they choose to do or not to do so".

Paris added: "We believe the time has come for the personal protection of employees in the workplace especially in the construction industry must not be optional but it must be mandatory. Construction workers and sometimes the public become expose to conditions that can compromise their health and safety because in our industry more often than not our work is associated with risk that are abnormal to other types of occupation."

Meanwhile, District Environmental Officer Isabella John said: "The Employment Safety Act imposes the duties of employers and employees to ensure that the work environment is safe and free from health and safety risks. It also promotes the primary responsibility of the employer and the employee to create safe and healthy workplaces in the use of safety practices and safety equipment and it also provides for the inspection and involvement services."

She added that under the Employment Act the Minister of Labour has the authority to designate persons from different institutions to act as safety officers to conduct monitoring and to ensure that the correct actions are being taken.

"We do not have an institution that focuses on mainly on occupational health and safety and we have the legislation but there are other issues that hinder the development and implementation of policy in respect to occupational health and safety," John said. "We have outdated legislations because the two that we have one is of 1983 and of 1951 and to my knowledge there has been no amendment of that legislation. Also it is inadequate because if we look at the Employment Safety Act there is only on subsidiary legislation that deals with factories and machines, absence of occupational health and management systems in the work place as well as the lack of a national system or policy in Dominica."