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Consider persons with disabilities when tabling OSHA

Published:Monday | February 25, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

GOVERNMENT SENATOR Floyd Morris has urged the Government to twin the tabling of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) with that of the Disabilities Act.

While giving support to a motion brought by Opposition Senator Kavan Gayle for the legislation to be brought to Parliament urgently, Morris yesterday expressed fear that persons with disabilities may be discriminated against in the workplace when OSHA is finally enacted.

"The legislation to come must speak to the whole issue as it relates to persons with disabilities because at the workplace, no doubt, they would be one of the most vulnerable groups," Morris argued.

He added: "The necessary measures must be in place to make sure that persons with disabilities who are on the job get the requisite protection under the Occupational Safety and Health Act ."

"I don't want a situation to develop in Jamaica where we see some people start to intensify their discrimination against persons with disabilities in terms of employment, under the guise that if they are employed they will become a high-risk group at the workplace," Morris said.

Occupational safety and health is concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. Currently, such matters are covered in the Factories Act and its accompanying regulations. Those regulations are the Factories Regulations 1961, the Building Operations and Works of Engineering Construction 1968 and the Ship and Docks Regulations 1968.

Senators have bemoaned the fact that it has taken 70 years to improve on the Factories Act, and that the discussions on OSHA has been going on for 15 years.

"I have noticed how long it takes [to approve] some critical legislation that are designed to empower the workers and other social groups within the society," Morris said as he decried the time it has taken for the legislative wheels to turn.

A.J. Nicholson, leader of government business in the Senate, said the ministry is awaiting comments from the attorney general's chambers on the draft bill.

He gave the assurance that it will soon be brought to Parliament for consideration.