What indeed is the future of workers’ safety in Ghana?
Whoop whoop, “World Safety Day” is here again. Am I excited? I should be, but No! I am NOT. Are our leaders excited? I should say YES… why Not?… it is another day for well-structured speeches from leaders detailing fantastic plans on the future of workers’ safety in Ghana which will see no action. Industry players will be on the airwaves (TV and radio stations) quoting same theories heard over and over again. Promises upon promises which never see the light of day will be made once again; Steps to address workers’ health and safety will be outlined but once again will not be implemented …oh yes! That is what this important day, the “World Safety Day”, has been reduced to in Ghana. ……Lives are cut short, some left with life-time deformities; painful and bitter memories imprinted on the minds of many. It is. time for action…..my standpoint.
IS THIS WHAT WORLD SAFETY DAY IS INTENDED TO BE? IS IT A DAY FOR OUR LEADERS TO SPILL THEIR EMPTY PROMISES?
The official “World safety Day” according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) is to mark the beginning of worldwide events and activities to continue throughout the rest of the year in order to reduce injury and death in the workplace. It was never the intention of the founders that it should just be a day’s event as it is the case here in Ghana. Fortunately, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana supports the World Safety Day agenda. Article 24 states that every person has the right to work under safe and healthy conditions.
That notwithstanding, our leaders appear to have completely missed the point and it is sad to note that every second, every minute, every hour and each day, people lose their lives; children lose their parents, couples lose their partners, all because of the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who ought to know better, and the silence of the voices of justice. Citizens have little knowledge of work safety laws, implementation, and enforcement. In situations where the laws are known, they are disregarded with impunity at workplaces.
It is commonplace that most offices in Ghana lack basic safety equipment and safety tips leading to death and lifetime deformities. Accidents are recurring on our roads, construction workers falling off from heights, people suffer permanent back injuries, loss of body parts such as fingers, legs, and arms resulting from occupational hazards; fuel stations are exploding, asbestos poisoning is commonly picked up in the mining sector, food poisoning is pervasive, chemical hazards affect our farmers on the fields daily due to unsafe use of agro-chemicals, etc. Those who manage to escape death, face pain, and suffering, loss of earnings, stress to family members/friends, treatment and medical cost and sometimes maimed for life.
WHY THEN DOES GHANA TAKE PART IN THIS CELEBRATION IF WE ARE NOT PREPARED TO PUT IN PLACE THE NECESSARY MEASURES AND THE RELEVANT LAWS TO ACHIEVE THE TRUE MEANING OF WORLD SAFETY DAY?
Ghana ratified a number of conventions such as; Convention 81 – Labor Inspection (02/07/59), Convention 115 – Radiation Protection Convention (07/11/61), Convention 119 – Guarding Machinery (18/03/65), to mention a few, but they all sit on shelves catching dust. Pursuant to the dictates of Article 75 of the constitution, the conventions should be subjected to rectification by Acts of Parliament for them to be applicable but that is yet to be given attention.
The ILO’s aim for the 2019 World Safety Day is for countries to protect workers and the public on risks arising from a change in technology, demographics, and change in work patterns under the Theme: “Safety and Health: The Future of Work”
How is Ghana hoping to comply with this year’s guidelines and principles set by the ILO?
In order to achieve the vision of the ILO, the country needs efficient health and safety laws. The absence of an Occupational Safety and Health law (OSH) in Ghana is having a massive impact on the health of workers, productivity and the economy in general. The Ghanaian worker is silent because he feels helpless hence suffer and dies in silence.
The lack of an OSH law affects hygiene standards push some workers into alcoholism and drug abuse in order to cope with the daily stress faced at workplaces. The country has lost and continues to lose a competent workforce to death, injury and deformities owing to failure to uphold and implement safety laws.
The government must, as a matter of urgency pass the health and safety law now to protect the citizenry safety, reduce risk of injury and death at workplaces and improve productivity for sustained socio-economic development. Failure to pass and implement the law means that the number of workplace deaths and injuries will continue to rise.
Once passed, the government must aim to put the law into action in order to provide clear guidance in terms of inspections and to enable enforcement of compliance and strong policies to guarantee workers are equipped with the necessary skills and tools via intensive training and awareness creation.
The future of health and safety (OSH)in Ghana may be doomed unless action is taken by Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Societies organizations and the public as a whole.
As a Nation, let’s strive to be Proactive other than Reactive.
By: Lawrencia Azumah Abugre (MSc Occupational Hygiene, University of Ghana Legon), LLB Law & Business University of Glamorgan UK, Wales).