The Occupational Safety and Health Agency said it categorically rejects the representations made by Victor Salazar – Safety and Health Inspector II and the OSHA Branch Executive, and Mr Wesley Francis – Labour Relations Officer of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union that the Agency has not developed
or implemented policies and protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement it said as the Regulator for occupational safety and health in Trinidad and Tobago, the OSH Agency is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all industrial establishments, including the Agency, comply with the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act Ch. 88:08. It added the OSH Agency has been actively monitoring the development of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the release by the Ministry of Health on Thursday 12 March 2020 that Trinidad and Tobago had recorded its first case of the virus, the Agency said it called an emergency staff meeting on Monday 16 March 2020 to detail the measures to be implemented to protect all the employees of the Agency. These included:
Limiting public access to all OSHA offices
Increased sanitisation regimes
The provision of hand sanitiser for all staff
Protocols for receiving complaints and conducting investigations
Provision for the supply of appropriate PPE where necessary; and
Requirements for reporting flu-like symptoms to Supervisors
It added these measures were documented in the Agency’s COVID-19 Business Continuity/Crisis Communication & Operational Guidelines which was produced by the Agency’s Crisis Management Team for COVID-19.
The Chief Inspector is a member of this team and was not only pivotal in developing the plan but also in ensuring that a risk assessment was conducted and that the measures adopted by the Agency were suitable and sufficient. The document was sent to the Union on March 19 2020.
OSHA further explained that on March 29, 2020, when the Government of Trinidad and Tobago announced the ‘Stay-At-Home’ measures, the Agency was not then cited as an essential service. Consequently, the Agency further implemented its continuity plan which made provisions for persons to work remotely.
The OSH Agency has now been designated an essential service by correspondence dated April 28, 2020, from the Minister of Health.
It said as such, it now has the authorisation to resume operations and the measures meant to protect the safety and health of the staff have not been rescinded but remain in full effect.
OSH Agency said, therefore, the claims made by the Union and reported by The Trinidad Guardian are without merit.