The year 2004 proved to be the beginning of a new era for occupational safety and health in Trinidad and Tobago with the assenting by Parliament of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 2004 in January 2004. The OSHA was amended by the Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Act, 2006 and was proclaimed on February 17, 2006 and has been operational since that date. This Act is of significance given that as of August 17, 2007 it will repeal and replace the Factories Ordinance Chapter 30, No. 2 which has governed health and safety in Trinidad and Tobago since 1948 and which was left operational for a few months after the new Act was proclaimed. The Factories Ordinance Chapter 30 No. 2 was left in force for this period as the arrangements for the implementation arm of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority, which is provided for in the Act, were put in place. The OSHA brings the legislation in step with the country’s rapid industrialization spurred by increased activities in the construction and petrochemical sectors.
Before its enactment, the OSHA was the subject of public consultation. Employers’ and workers’ organizations also played a significant role in its development. Additionally, an Occupational Safety and Health Council, comprising the social partners as well as representatives of Non-governmental organizations, was established in May 2003 for a period of five (5) months with the following terms of reference:
to draft an Occupational Safety and Health Policy;
to develop codes that would provide the framework for the Occupational Safety and Health Authority to carry out its functions; and
to submit recommendations for the organizational structure of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority.
One of the key changes brought about by the enactment of this legislation is the widening of the scope of categories of protected workers. While the Factories Ordinance made provisions for persons employed in factories only, the OSHA covers most workers in all aspects of work undertaken in an industrial establishment (defined as a factory, shop, office, place of work or other premises excluding residential premises) that may have significant impacts on the health and safety of the employees, with the exception of workers in private homes (domestic workers).