HSE Awards 2022 - CEO's Opening Remarks


Opening Remarks by
Nirad Tewarie - CEO of AMCHAM T&T

Good morning, everyone

Thank you, Jason, for that introduction.

As some of you may be aware, the National Excellence in HSE Awards was originally called the AMCHAM T&T Awards up until 2010 when it was formally endorsed by the Ministry of Labour in 2011 whereupon it became recognized as National Awards. AMCHAM T&T is once more proud to be the host of these awards because it shows the value and importance we place in our people by ensuring their overall health and safety.

While the head judge of the National Excellence in HSE Awards will give you details on the awards nominating and judging process, I want to take this time and acknowledge that it is not a simple undertaking to just submit your company for one of these prestigious awards. The consideration and nominating process require a lot of essential paperwork and the confidential sharing of your KPIs, and as some of you experienced, some very hands-on and intensive site visits.

What I believe really stands out with these awards from any other in this field is that we do not just rely on your paper submissions. If HSE processes are superficial in your organization, I am very confident that the team of judges we have would be able to see that. Let me also say this program is not one where we reward those who are the best from the applications received - companies must reach a minimum standard for them to be considered.

In other words, we are not obligated to give an award every year - if the submissions do not meet the standard set, then no award would be given. I say this not to scare the finalists before us today, but rather to allow the audience a clear understanding of the rigorous process and standard that goes into recognizing companies for their achievements in HSE leadership. Each of the finalists here today would have exhibited and put forward KPIs that impressed the judges during the first round of judging.

Gerard, I know you would thank the judges, but it would be remiss of me if I did not thank them on behalf of the Board and myself for the hard work and long hours that they put into these Awards. I want to say that AMCHAM T&T is extremely proud to have such a high caliber of judges - these men and women who are volunteers worked tirelessly revising scoresheets and screening forms as well as conducting interviews. They are focused on ensuring that the awards continue to evolve and that best practice is not just something we ask of applicants but is also something we continuously strive toward. Thank you judges for your efforts, and for volunteering your services and expertise towards ensuring the success of this year’s event! You are giving national service as you help improve the level of health and safety both for our people and throughout our nation. Thank you!

Ladies and gentlemen, as I stated earlier this started as a rigorous award process at the end of which you were given a public acknowledgment of your robust HSE Systems, and those of you who were not successful were given feedback. You did not always agree with the feedback, and I must say companies that took the feedback and made the necessary changes, and improved their systems became eventual winners. Nestle is one such company. And as we talk about continuous improvement, this year we launched the National HSE Award mentorship component - where some of the unsuccessful companies would have the opportunity to be mentored by previous winners. Let me thank those mentors who have volunteered to share their knowledge and expertise.

This year we had 34 applicants for the HSE Awards - and whilst it represents the same number of applications as last year, permit me to take you behind these figures. As many of you know a company can participate in all four categories of the awards since different criteria are being looked at for each award- therefore what this means is that you could possibly win the award for HSE projects but be unsuccessful in your pursuit of the coveted award for Excellence in HSE, and vice versa.

PBS Technologies and Nestle joined some of the giants who have won the awards more than three times in a row, and the representatives of both companies – Darryl Sankar of Nestle and Gail Figaro, who now leads her own HSE Consultancy, Phi-Onyx services, decided that they wanted to continue contributing to these awards in a different but albeit special way. This year Darryl and Nestle and Gail decided to turn up their HSE leadership by opting to become mentors to companies seeking to build and enhance their safety cultures. I call this action out as I think we do not celebrate enough the selfless actions of our colleagues. When we first launched the mentorship program, we were asked, “but what is the cost - give me the bottom line.” To this, we say without reservation that “Mentorship is FREE and completely voluntary!” Yes, this is another definite example of the private sector operating beyond the narrow view of profit motive! And it is an area in which AMCHAM T&T continues to lead.

Before I close please permit me to raise two issues of concern for us at AMCHAM T&T.

At AMCHAM T&T, we always advocate for effective regulation. Light touch but effective. This means that when businesses need guidance from regulators, it should be clear, precise, and provided in an expeditious manner. An understaffed OSH Authority will not be able to regulate to prevent incidents, investigate them or hold errant companies to account. So, we must address the high attrition rate of inspectors at the authority - given the critical role of this agency. While we note recent statements about the Agency being on a recruitment drive, the revelation in Parliament in May of this year that 58% of positions at the OSH Authority were unfilled, including that of the Chief Inspector was alarming. We look forward to a robust but expeditious process of hiring in this regard. If this does happen, the addition of a large number of new people into the organization is both an opportunity and a risk to building the culture you want at the Authority. If AMCHAM T&T can assist in any way, at the very least to deepen the long-standing collaboration that we have with the authority to have more open communication between the Authority and the private sector, we would happy to assist.

Adequate staffing of the authority is important. But without the appropriate legislative framework, the ecosystem won’t be optimal. In this regard, one immediate and decisive action can be the updating of the OSH legislation. We understand that legislation takes time, but we think most would agree that 16 years is too long for us to be discussing an update to the OSH Act. This is an Act that is at the bedrock of protection for our people. Against this backdrop, we are appealing to OSHA and the Ministry of Labour to work with the private and employee representatives and let us update this much-needed piece of legislation, and let’s set a reasonable time frame by which this will get done. I must, however, emphasise the need for real, meaningful consultation from the early stages and throughout the process.

Before I leave, I would like to congratulate all the companies that participated in this year’s awards. Whether you won, were named a finalist, or didn’t make the cut, the decision to lead with HSE across your business operations is a strong testament to the putting people first safe philosophy which has brought so much success to many businesses and companies. I hope that no matter the outcome of this year’s awards, the future continues to see you leading with HSSE across every part of your company’s operations and overall workplace culture.

I wish all the finalists huge congratulations on their successes. Good luck to everyone.

Thank you!


WLC 2023 - Presiden't Speech