THE EDITOR, Sir:
I was so taken back to read, in The Gleaner of September 12, 2012, of the sad loss of two farmers through alleged chemical poisoning. This reinforces the need for training in health and safety and personal hygiene for farmers. Often, this group is forgotten, as farmers continue to use traditional methods to carry out work in the fields.
However, one must not forget the risks and the toxicity of some of these chemicals that rid crops of pests, as well as the dangers of using bare hands in carrying out certain activities in the soil.
We must ensure the highest level of safety in hand and body hygiene. The skin is the largest organ on the body and absorbs very easily chemicals and other agents to which it might be exposed. Likewise, the respiratory system needs to be protected, as this is another route for chemicals and other agents to enter our body.
There are also many bacteria and other microbes that live in soil, and so all workers should be educated on safe methods of farming and the need for the highest standard of hygiene, especially after handling chemicals and consumption of foods.
The Ministry of Agriculture, through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, must ensure that ongoing public awareness, through the media as well as seminars, is designed for our farmers, many of whom often work without the necessary safety gear.
The food-safety conference held recently by the Food Hygiene Bureau is an example of events that farmers and others who work in the field should be encouraged and facilitated to attend. Generally, none of these groups are in attendance at these educational events.
I think the Ministry of Agriculture should ensure an active programme of hygiene, health and safety education is directed at those who work in the field, as they are at increased risk of chemical and microbiological poisoning.
The much-talked-of occupational health and safety legislation for Jamaica is well overdue.
Food Hygiene Bureau Ltd