Ambassador Lynch delivers remarks at AMCHAM Guyana Health, Safety, Security and Environment Conference

Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
AMCHAM Guyana Health, Safety, Security and Environment Conference 
Marriott Hotel 
April 25, 2023

Honorable Minister of Labor, Amcham executives, Lt. Colonel Egbert Field, distinguished guests,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Amcham’s annual Guyana Health, Safety, Security and Environment conference, better known as HSSE.  Amcham’s theme this year is building resilience navigating health and safety challenges in the modern workplace.  I am incredibly proud of the health and safety track record of U.S. businesses operating in Guyana, and of course they rely on their Guyanese employees to help them implement and uphold their world-leading standards.

Guyana has incredible natural resources, but I always note that its most important resource is its people.  Guyana’s talented workforce will drive Guyana forward, though having massive oil reserves and pristine rainforests doesn’t hurt.

A lot has changed in my four years as Ambassador, and I’m happy to see the strides that you all have made on working conditions.  I remember when Guyanese workers were happy to get any job, regardless of the working conditions.  But now workers have options, and they are choosing safer working conditions.  And you, the employers, are investing in modern equipment, training, and safer workspaces.  I’m glad you’re taking this opportunity to recognize what your workforce has to make investments to create and maintain safe work environments.  From high-end safety gear to clear standards, we believe American firms are leading the way in safety, and we are proud of how quickly Guyanese have adopted standards to keep everyone safe.

Safety requires strong partnerships, and we see that daily at job sites in Guyana and especially offshore, where every day a complex work environment awaits.  Thanks to everyone working together, the highest safety standards are met and exceeded onshore and offshore.  That ranges from using the handrail to wearing hardhats.  When I visit sites with visiting VIPs or the President, nobody is exempt, and a highlight is always the safety briefing.  We even see that here in the Marriott every time there’s an event.

Healthy, safe workers are happy workers, and far more loyal and productive.  A healthy workplace is crucial for promoting mental and emotional well-being.  It boosts employee morale and reduces employee absenteeism, raises productivity and increases job satisfaction.  Also, as the honorable Minister of Labor would be happy to point out, creating a safe and healthy workplace is not only a moral obligation but a legal one.  Finally, I would like to emphasize that creating a safe and healthy environment is a shared responsibility.  Employers should provide proper training and equipment.  And workers should reciprocate by following safety procedures.

The workplace is a place where we spend a significant portion of our time. Therefore, a healthy, safe workplace means a healthy, safe Guyana, which is what we all want.

You are going to hear from some incredible speakers today, and we’re going to learn a lot.  I don’t want to steal your thunder, but if I may, I would like to make a few suggestions:

  • Build a culture of safety from the start. Culture is formed at the top. As business leaders, your employees look to you.  Are you following your own safety guidelines?
  • Create open channels of communication. Your employees may have feedback that you may be mission. Do you offer anonymous surveys?
  • Be proactive, rather than reactive. Create a plan, and train for every eventuality. Do you have procedures in place for an accident?
  • Learn from mistakes. Improving health and safety is based on continuous improvement.
  • Are your employees taking adequate breaks? Sometimes I have to tell my own hard-working staff to slow down.  Accidents are more likely to occur when workers are tired.
  • Security is crucial. But it goes beyond guards; cameras, lighting, and secure parking all help our employees feel safe and secure.
  • Think holistically about your workers’ experiences. Often, the most dangerous part of any workday is getting to and from the worksite.  How can we do more to encourage road safety, including real accountability for users who break the rules on Guyana’s roads?
  • Are you offering emergency preparedness training at your facilities? Even basic emergency health training can save lives in case of accidents, and I’d note that several groups including the Centre for Local Business Development offer consulting and training if you need support and don’t have it in-house.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight that U.S. businesses have the highest standards in health and safety. Want to purchase safe workplace equipment?  Consider buying American.  Want to improve your processes?  Consider partnering with an American company.  Oil and gas are leading the way, but there are plenty of American companies to work with in every sector.
  • Want to learn more? Your partners here at AmCham can help you.

The United States of America is proud to be your partner in development in the workplace and beyond.