Getting to the root of government’s growing problems

The Department of Labour and Pensions recently held a training course ­– complete with certificates of completion – designed to teach safety skills to a group of local landscaping professionals.

Topics covered what to wear (safety equipment), what not to touch (sharp objects) and what to do if anyone gets injured (call for help). For example: Wear gloves. Don’t touch spinning blades. If you see blood, call 911.

This is an example of government expansion, pure and simple, into areas where it’s not necessarily wanted and certainly not needed. Instead of looking at ways to prevent landscapers from losing fingers and toes, the resources of the Cayman Islands government would be better spent looking at ways to cut down the size and the cost of government operations.

Cayman lawmakers insist that the public sector is in “austerity” mode. Rank-and-file civil servants have experienced actual suffering because of freezing of salaries and unfulfilled promises of cost-of-living adjustments. Central government is hemorrhaging tens of millions of dollars per year on quixotic quasi-business ventures, such as Cayman Airways and the Turtle Farm. Debt servicing payments already consume unacceptable portions of the budget, and the biggest liabilities related to bullet loans, healthcare and pensions obligations have yet to hit the books.

Meanwhile, the Department of Pensions and Labour is trying to find something for its resident OSHA-authorized trainer to do. And that’s how 13 of Grand Cayman’s finest landscaping professionals, employed by The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott Beach Resort, wound up in a government classroom, learning about things they should already know, or probably don’t need to know.

(We won’t say anything more about the U.S. federal government’s legendarily byzantine Occupational Safety and Health Administration other than to remark that the fewer OSHA-authorized anything in Cayman, the better.)

Governments in general, and Cayman’s government in particular, have consistent histories of inflicting human misery – on taxpayers and ostensible protectorates – when they stray from the narrow confines of necessary functions and meddle in activities that are best left to the private sector.

This Editorial Board doesn’t hold anything against Cayman’s landscapers; indeed we strongly support their right to a safe working environment, and the preservation of the use of all of their fingers, toes, and assorted appendages. The same goes for all workers in all industries.

By the government’s “thinking,” why stop with just landscapers? How about fast-food operators, auto mechanics, pressmen, babysitters, nannies … in fact, every occupation, every where? The Cayman government would do well to contemplate the axiom that “governments that govern least, govern best.”

Cayman’s government should not be in the business of attempting to prevent injuries, an ill-conceived crusade given the nature of random chance and careless fools. Aficionados of the online Darwin Awards – “given posthumously to people who have made the supreme sacrifice to keep their genes out of our pool” – are aware that some humans can, and do, go to great lengths to hasten their own extinction, through means as seemingly benign as lawn chairs and helium balloons, or as bizarre as a cageful of bored Bengal tigers.

The proper setting for instruction on workplace safety is the workplace, and the proper guides are coworkers, supervisors or, if necessary, private safety consultants. (Perhaps there is a potentially lucrative private sector opportunity for the government’s OSHA-authorized trainer.)

Companies are ultimately liable for on-the-job injuries to or damage caused by their employees. The companies – not box-ticking bureaucrats – are in the best position, and have the most compelling interests, to ensure that their employees are well apprised of the hazards of their professional occupations.


  1. You say By the government’s thinking, why stop with just landscapers? How about fast-food operators, auto mechanics, pressmen, babysitters, nannies … in fact, every occupation, every where?

    I say: Give them time. Our rulers (MLAs and senior bureaucrats) show not the slightest intention to limit the scope of government, or to rein in the rampant expansionism for which the Civil Service is notorious. Sigh. If only…

    There are dozens of obvious cuts that could be made in government services, but no MLA or senior bureaucrat will speak of them. I wish the Compass’s Editorial Board well in its campaign to reduce wasteful Public Expenditure, but I’m afraid you (we) are spitting against the wind.

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