By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has submitted proposed amendments to the recently tabled Occupational Safety and Healthy (OSH) Bill to the Public Service, Labor, Industry and Trade Committee.
The revision submitted by the BCCI includes 46 suggested amendments, 54 points of clarification and seven points that the Chamber recommends be struck from the Bill completely.
BCCI, in its submission, stated: “In our current economy where the cost of doing business is already high, most businesses cannot afford the heavy fines imposed for a violation of this Act.”
The Chamber advises that imposing additional expenses will certainly increase the cost of doing business in an already expensive economy.
The Chamber also recommends that instead of creating an OSH Authority, the OSH Bill be placed under the responsibilities of the Social Security Board (SSB). BCCI underscored that the SSB already has an established network throughout the country and already investigates claims related to workplace safety.
The Chamber added, “It is not therefore necessary to create another independent body such as the Authority to undertake the very same task. The BCCI recommends that rather than creating another body, funding should be provided for the further training and development of the inspectors already employed at the SSB.”
The Chamber also advises that a grace period of a minimum of five years be given to businesses to become fully compliant with the Bill.
The Chamber also urges the government to offer training workshops to employers and employees to enable them to become compliant with the Act.
According to the BCCI it would also be beneficial for the government to offer incentives to businesses such as duty and GST exemption for the importation of necessary safety equipment not readily available in Belize.
The Chamber has also requested that if indeed the OSH Authority is implemented, two seats be reserved for the BCCI as well as a representative each from the Bar Association, the Engineer’s Association, and the Architect’s Association.
According to the Chamber, the Bill gives too much power to the Chief Inspector, which would be appointed by the OSH Authority and the BCCI questions who would have the authority over the Inspector.
The BCCI also has requested the penalties be clearly specified, as these would be imposed on employees and employers who are considered to have committed an offence under the Bill. The Chamber recommends that the Act and the regulations be drafted and implemented concurrently.
Once there is an agreement on the Bill’s amendments the committee can then begin to schedule nationwide public consultations to gather feedback from Belizeans on the issue.
The Occupational Safety and Health Bill, 2014 is a proposed legislation that would establish particular regulatory principles for big and small employers and their employees and would carry stiff penalties for non-compliance.