Business News of Tuesday, 30 October 2018
The Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations has adopted a re-engineering approach to restructure and revitalise the Department of Factories Inspectorate and the Labour Department to enable them to address labour challenges in the country.
It has therefore provided five Pick-Up vehicles to the Department of Factories Inspectorate to enhance its capacity for effective inspection and regular monitoring, while another 100 motorbikes are expected to be given to the Labour Department in the coming weeks to augment its logistical capacity to improve on its activities and performance.
Mr Ignatius Baffour Awuah, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, made this known when he opened the maiden Africa Conference on Occupational Health and Safety in Accra on Monday.
He said regulatory reforms were underway to reposition the Department of Factories Inspectorate and restructure it into the department of Occupational Safety and Health so that it could coordinate activities of health and safety issues of workers and ensure safety standards at the workplace.
The Labour Department would also undergo reforms to carry out its mandate in a professional and efficient manner, while the Labour Act 2003, Act 651, was expected to be reviewed to function effectively.
The Minister assured government’s full support towards the institutional reforms and, thus, urged the labour unions and other stakeholders to support a worthy cause to ensure industrial peace.
“We must, therefore, begin strengthening the existing structures and instituting new preventive measures at all levels to ensure that safety becomes the number one item on the agenda, particularly at the enterprise level,” Mr Baffour Awuah pointed out.
The three-day event, on the theme, ”Safe and Healthy Work Culture for Sustainable Development”, attracted participants from Ghana, Nigeria and Zambia as well as labour experts across the globe to discuss occupational safety of workers and help shape policy interventions.
The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Global Estimate of Occupational Accident and Work Related Index, 2017, says 2.3 million workers worldwide fell victim to work related accidents and diseases annually, while Africa recorded over seven million cases of work related accidents in 2014, with fatality rate pegged at 17.69 per cent per every 100,000 workers.
Mr Baffour Awuah expressed concerns about the country’s fragmented occupational safety and regulatory framework and management systems, with various agencies playing different roles but not in a coordinated manner.
He noted that the Workman’s Compensation Law of 1957, PNDCL 187, and Factories, Offices and Shops Act of 1970, Act 328, had become outdated and did not respond to emerging issues and advocated new legislations to deal with changing trends of occupational safety and health conditions of workers.
The Minister emphasised that occupational safety and health was a critical matter that should be addressed in a sustainable manner, saying often government and state actors paid attention to implementing programmes that engendered economic growth and created jobs, but neglected the safety and health issues at the workplace.
In that regard, he said the Tripartite Committee that discussed workers service conditions would now onwards take into consideration workers’ occupational safety and health issues seriously.
The Minister noted that the Ghana Labour Survey Report for 2015 revealed that 1,341,890 workers experienced one or more work related accidents, saying since 2014 the country had witnessed several gas explosions, which claimed many lives and destroyed property worth millions of Cedis.
Therefore governments of developing countries were under obligation to work towards reducing work related accidents and diseases as outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and African Union Agenda for 2063, saying occupational safety and health was supposed to be the guaranteed rights of the workers,
Mr Baffour Awuah explained that the Goal 8.8 of the SDG enjoined governments to protect labour rights and ensure safe and secured working environment for all workers, including venerable and those with precarious environment.
Aside the obligations imposed on governments by international development frameworks, the Minister said the government of Ghana fully recognised the need to improve on occupational safety and health conditions in workplaces by its own policies and laws.
In view of that, he said, the government’s coordinated programme of economic and social programme policies from 2017 to 2014, sufficiently made provisions to guide the development of central mechanisms and programmes to address workers’ safety and health issues.
The Minister gave the assurance that government was striving to protect the dignity of workers throughout their working life, noting that Article 24 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states; “every person has the right to work under satisfactory, safe and healthy working conditions and shall receive equal pay for equal work without distinction of any kind”.
Additionally, Article 36 (10) enjoined the State to safeguard the safety and welfare of all persons and establish the basis for full deployment of the creative potentials of all Ghanaians.
He said every worker in the country has the right to conducive working environment for protection from all kinds of hazards at the workplace.
The Minister, therefore, underscored the need to educate and sensitise workers and employers to recognise and accept their responsibilities to prevent risk and hazards at the workplace.
Mr Alan Stevens, the Head of Global Engagement and Partnerships, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), United Kingdom, on his part, said the Organisation had 47,000 members globally in more than 30 countries, including Ghana,
He said it had formed networks worldwide in different fields to offer training and give a voice to workers’ safety and health and ensure safety standards at the workplace.
Mr Stevens said it had formed partnerships with number of agencies globally, including the ILO to promote strategies and best practices to enhance workers’ welfare.
There were fraternal messages from the Ghana Employers Association, Trades Union Congress, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation from Zambia, Lagos State Safety Commission and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.