Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CABINET APPROVES OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT FOR SRI LANKANS

The Occupational Health Safety Act has finally been approved by Cabinet. It is now pending presentation to Parliament. The Act, although drafted in 2007, by the Labour Department in consultation with experts from a number of fields is yet to see the light of day”, Dr Mahendra Arnold, Community Physician, Sri Lanka Medical Association told The Nation expressing hope it would be implemented early. He charged that the 5 year delay in implementing the Act was probably due to pressure from industrialists.

“They are probably against some of the new stringent clauses incorporated in it. These include: prior approval by the Department of Labour when setting up a factory. To obtain approval, they have to ensure the equipment used by workers is safe, rooms in which they perform duties are safe, there is access to fire extinguishers in an emergency, there is proper lighting and ventilation and the provision of protective clothing etc to workers. The Act also provides for Safety Officers to be present at the premises,” he said. Dr Arnold charged that loopholes in the existing Factories Ordinance of 1945, accounted for the sharp spike in occupational accidents and deaths in the country. “The number of accidents at workplaces is said to be between 3000 and 4000 per year and deaths at workplaces is reported to be between 30- 40 and is grossly under-reported. Most employers don’t report these accidents/deaths for fear they would have to pay compensation to the victims. Workers don’t report injuries for fear of losing their jobs,” he noted adding the fines for industrial accidents were as low as Rs 1500 to 3000. We also don’t have a Policy on Occupational Health. We are now developing a Policy with the Labour Department, Health and Educational Ministries and other allied ministries. It should come be completed by next year”, he said. (CA)

Culled from: International Association of Safety Professionals Facebook page.

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