Occupational Safety and Health in the Caribbean

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Occupational Safety and Health in the Caribbean lecture notes Dr. A. Bailey
BBA Unit 1

Course objectives
On completion of this module the student should have mastered the following : * Overview of OHS in LAC
* Gender issues
* High risk occupations
* Common occupational hazards
* The impact of OHS in LAC
* Main policy issues and challenges
* Policy recommendations
People spend more than one-third of each day at work. For this reason alone it should be clear that working conditions can have a major and direct impact on the health and well being of the approximately 210 million workers of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and their families. Furthermore, concerns with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) extend well beyond the obvious health consequences of work-generated illnesses, accidents and death.The World Health Organization estimates that only between 1% and 4% of all occupational diseases are reported in the developing world.Every year more than 2 million people die from occupational accidents or work-related diseases. By conservative estimates, there are 270 million occupational accidents and 160 million cases of occupational disease. The safety of work varies enormously between countries, economic sectors and social groups . There are 20-27 million work-related accidents in Latin America and the Caribbean annually.. In the Caribbean in particular, there has been a general increase in the number of occupational accidents and diseases reported.The most frequently reported occupational diseases in the Caribbean are pesticide and heavy metal poisoning. Skin, respiratory diseases and occupational hearing loss are also common. There are currently more than 50 conventions by the ILO that deals with OSH. This is indicative of the concerns raised by Labor of the seriousness of this problem. This issue affects not just workers but also their families, which ultimately affects the economy of the country. OSH issues are directly linked to other areas such as:

* the labor market and labor productivity,
* household income and poverty,
* the social security system,
* international trade,
* the environment.
Despite these facts, OSH issues have received little attention in Latin America and the Caribbean due to the widespread, and culturally rooted, lack of awareness regarding the importance of a safe and healthy work environment, and to the weakness of the institutions responsible for the promotion and enforcement of better working conditions. The failure to implement or enforce appropriate safety-related laws translates into * lost production,

* lost wages,
* medical expenses,
* disability,
* death
The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to pesticides lead to the poisoning of over 1 million and the death of 10,0000 agricultural workers every year in LAC.The use of powerful pesticides in banana plantations has caused higher than average cancer rates and birth defects among banana workers and their families in Costa Rica. The annual costs from occupational injuries and deaths in LAC may reach at least US$ 76 billion, according to the International Labor Organization. Addressing occupational safety and health problems is an extremely complex task.It requires dealing with overlapping responsibilities between Ministries of Labor and Health, and between private insurers and social security institutes. It requires involvement with business associations and workers unions, international trade negotiators, and environmentalists The presence of significant levels of unemployment and underemployment, and the absence of income protection or insurance mechanisms for the unemployed and for those working in unregulated sectors of the economy, cause many Latin American workers to feel compelled to accept unusually hazardous working conditions. Furthermore, because some of these workers lack the education or the skills to seek better...
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