Ghana’s construction industry employs 1.4% of the country’s workforce but contributed 14% of occupational fatalities in 2000. A series of major construction disasters have strengthened the need to critically consider health and safety (H&S) management in the construction industry.
In an initiative to improve the working conditions in the construction sector, the Construction Sector of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) and its partners under the leadership of Rockson Dogbegah have engaged consultants to develop a draft Health and Safety Policy for the Construction Sector.
The draft policy was presented at a stakeholder dialogue meeting in March 2019 at the Tomreik Hotel in Accra, which was well attended by representatives from both public and private sector institutions including the Ministry of Roads and Highways, Ministry of Works and Housing, Ghana Institution of Engineering, Ghana Institution of Surveyors, Ghana Institute of Planners, and the Ghana Institute of Architects beside others.
Stakeholders are hopeful that the Government will adopt the policy as a basis for legislation of health and safety in the construction sector. This advocacy project is funded by the Star Ghana Foundation with support from UK aid, DANIDA, the EU and the USAID.
The lack of a clear policy guideline and legislation on health and safety has contributed to under-investment in health and safety in the construction sector according to experts. For example, the Offices, Factories and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328) is believed to have outlived its usefulness but attempts to review it have fail. In fact, many individuals, organizations and businesses are not even aware of the existence of such a law in Ghana. This has led to sub-standard offices, factories and shops in Ghana coupled with deteriorating working conditions to the detriment of the health and safety of employers, employees and customers.
As a corollary, there is also a lack of health and safety (H&S) law and regulations for construction workers, which has led to the loss of lives on construction sites. After the infamous “Melcom Disaster” – the collapse of a five-storey shopping mall that claimed 14 lives and 82 others who were rescued from the rubble with various degrees of injury in 2012 – it was expected that concerted efforts would be channelled to address this lack of commitment towards H&S management in the construction industry. Unfortunately, the construction industry has become endemic with more accidents and loss of lives.
These stories of fatal accident and injuries paint a very gloomy picture of the construction industry in Ghana, showing how poorly health and safety are managed on construction sites. This gap highlights the need for a health and safety policy and law for the construction sector, which experts believe will bring some sanity into construction and protect workers.