Aspect K. AMOAKOH’s thoughts….. Workplace Injury: Who’s Fault?

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Numerous enactments have been in existence to regulate health and safety of Ghanaians. Ghana has ratified International Convention No. 155 on health and safety at the workplace.

Labour Act, 2003 (ACT 651), Workmen’s Compensation Law 1987, Factories, shops and office Act, 1970, Ghana National Fire Service Act 1992, ACT 537, Mining Regulation 1970 L1 665 and 1992 constitution of Ghana. All these laws and regulations make it obligatory for an employer to ensure that every worker employed in Ghana works under satisfactory, safe, and healthy condition.

This article examines occupational injuries/ illness in Ghana, considering the fact that most employers do not comply with the provisions in the Labour Act 2003 on health and safety.   Employees on the other hand do the opposite. This phenomenon has resulted occupational injuries or illness and even death at the work environment.

However, employers have duties and rights under the Labour Act, 2003 to set standard to safeguards the wellbeing of their employees, providing personal protective equipment (PPEs) and providing necessary information, supervision and training consistent with the level of the employees. It also requires   employer to report the occurrence of occupational accident to appropriate government agencies. Employees are obligated to exercise their actions with reasonable care as they go about their normal jobs to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

Numerous injuries, illness, property damages and process losses take place at different workplace but due to under reporting or unfamiliarity with the existing guidelines, people are not normally in the know of such event and potential consequences. Given the wide range of potential and actual undesired events associated with the myriad of work groups in Ghana from different work setting, there seem to be a missing line between legislations or policy provisions and application of contents of the various legislative acts and instruments by employers. Acts in Ghana task the employer and the employees to fulfil their part of ensuring health and safety at the workplace. The acts solely direct employers/ employees alike to ensure safety provisions but fails to address the “How “ to implementing the content.

Big Issue

The effects of workplace injury cannot be overemphasized. Out of a total 9,269,889 persons 15 years and older who were employed, 1,341,890 consisting 14.5 percent had had a workplace accident in the past, with males (19.4%) being twice as likely as females (10.3%) have had an accident. Source: Labour Force Survey Report 2015. The report indicates that it cost countries to treat worker as a result of occupational direct and work related illness. A such, more working hours loss as a result of the patient being undergoing treatment or hospitalized. In addition, companies’ loss revenue in the course of taking insurance policy and paying compensation for injured workers.

Under the law of workers’ compensation in many jurisdictions, there is a presumption that specific diseases are caused by the worker being in the work environment and the burden on the employer or insurer to show that the disease came about from another cause. Occupational lung disease include asbestosis among miners and quarrying. Occupational skin diseases and conditions are generally caused by chemicals and having wet hands for long periods while at work. Eczema is by far the most common and also skin cancer.

The use of different chemicals, such as pesticides, has increased enormously in the agriculture sector lately. As these substances are used to kill organism, many of them are also very toxic for human being, hence, workers in this sector are at risk of intoxications due to exposure to these pesticides.

Another occupational disease is the use of Glove related hand urticarial. It has been reported as an occupational problem among the health care workers. This type of hand urticarial is believed to be caused by repeated wearing and removal of the gloves. The reaction is caused by the latex or the nitrile present in the gloves. High risk occupations include; hairdressing, catering, healthcare, printing, metal machining, motor vehicle repair and construction.

Other occupational disease of concern are: overuse syndrome among persons who perform repetitive or forceful movement in constrictive postures. Computer vision syndrome among persons using information technology for hours.

The Way Forward

Employees at any work setting may be exposed to a variety of workplace hazard in the course of their duties.

Firstly, the step for addressing the health and safety at the workplace is to ensure healthy environment requires effective assessment of the hazard then determine appropriate controls to deal with them.

Management commitment and leadership-improving safety performance at the workplace requires senior management unambiguous commitment to provide soft and healthy work environment to their employees. It is therefore the responsibility of management to eliminate, reduce, or control hazard at the workplace and put measures in place to mitigate effects of harm if they occur.

Communication and collaboration– Management should communicate the hazard assessment and control to all the workers who perform the task. Workers participation in all aspects of programme development is a key factor of a successful occupational injury and illness.

Administrative control– it focus on ensuring that the appropriate prevention steps are taken that all proper with procedures are documented, that administrative personnel are trained to use proper procedures.

Personal Protective Equipment- PPE such as gloves, respiratory protection and eye protection should be used on the work environment. For instance, gloves, gowns and other protective clothing reduce exposure through the skin contact and assist contain microorganisms to the work environment.

In a nutshell, it is greatly expected that the government will come out with the Health and Safety Act in this era of pandemic.

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