Occupational Health and Safety
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From October 18 to 23, 2010, delegations from the Ministries of Labor of St. Lucia and Panama visited the headquarters of the United States Department of Labor to receive training on Occupational Health and Safety. During the visit, delegates met with different agencies including the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, DOL’s National Contact Center located within the Office of Public Affairs (OPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Board, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, among other agencies.
In the words of the delegation of the Ministry of Labor of Panama, the joint experience allowed them to assess “the importance of having a professional and technical body of Labor Inspectors with a high level of knowledge, efficiency, integrity, and impartiality in the exercise of their inspections.” The delegation highlighted that such lessons could be adapted to their country in the strengthening of the training programs for Labor Inspectors and Safety Officers and in the awareness of employers and workers on the role of Labor Inspection. Bearing this in mind, the Panamanian delegation considered as next steps the carrying out of a seminar on basic concepts of occupational safety and health, the design of a training program, and permanent instruction for labor inspectors.
For the St. Lucian delegation this visit reemphasized that labor inspections should be conducted to ensure compliance with labor standards and not merely for statistical purposes. In their words, “Lessons learned from our exposure to the experiences and enforcement practices of both the USDOL and Panama’s DOL will be used to highlight the importance of having an effective labor inspection program in St. Lucia.” The country has operated without an inspection program, and the decision to develop it is one of the key outcomes of this cooperation. In addition and also based on their experience at the USDOL, delegates expect to pursue the following activities: revive the outreach program, develop OSH training for inspectors, and review enforcement strategies.
Overall, for both delegations, this visit accentuated the significance of having an effective inspection program and enhanced their capacity and competencies in dealing with labor inspection matters.