GEISC 2015: Confab Advocates Better Health And Safety Policies For Ghanaian Workers

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By Gilbert Boyefio

The Just Concluded Ghana Extractive Industry Safety Conference (GEISC), First Of Its Kind In The History Of The Oil And Gas Industry In Ghana, Has Strongly Advocated For The Need To Protect The Ghanaian Worker And Make His Working Environment Safe.

The conference, tagged, “Driving Industry Excellence through Health and Safety,” was organized by the Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce and Industry to provide the platform for addressing policy, regulation and compliance issues that will lead to institutional reforms at both the public and the private sector levels on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards.

The conference came at a time when conformity to Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSE and Q) standards has become an entry barrier to local Ghanaian businesses into the extractive industry’s supply chain.


The Challenge

The reality on ground is that Ghana as a country has no safety culture. As such, local businesses especially the micro, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) do not have safety systems in place.

However, the global oil and gas and mining industries thrive on very high (HSE and Q) standards. Therefore evidence of HSE policies and systems within a company is mandatory or a pre‐requisite for doing business in the extractive industry.

As a result, most local Ghanaian businesses are unable to secure contracts in the Oil, Gas and Mining Industries.

At best, most local businesses are only able to access peripheral jobs or contracts with very low monetary values from sub-contractors. The situation on the ground obviously makes the achievement of provisions in the Oil, Gas and mining Local Content Laws very difficult.

It is very usual for institutions to break health and safety rules and expose their employees to lots of hazards, thereby breaching their “duty of care” to the employees. Individual employees also compromise their own safety at workplace by acting ‘unsafely’.

Ghana currently has no comprehensive national occupational health, safety and environment policy, which would provide standards or guide for adherence by industry. What exist today, are pieces of scattered legislations and regulations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act (Act 490) and Factories, Offices and Shops Act, LI 328.

Apart from EPA and Minerals Commission, much has not been heard or seen of the rest of the agencies mandated to enforce the Acts mentioned above. This may be as a result of lack of resources and logistics as is always the excuse of most enforcement agencies in the country and more importantly ‘non-‐applicability’ of some of these laws.

The inability of these agencies to perform their oversight responsibilities and strictly enforce compliance at their respective sectors coupled with the absence of a comprehensive regime (public and private) have brought untold hardships, pain, suffering and in some cases death to some employees. The private sector in Ghana is increasingly growing.

For Ghanaian companies wanting to work with the major multi‐national operating companies in the extractive sector, implementation of HSE management systems is a pre‐requisite for doing business. Again, if the country developmental agenda is to be realised, then we need to build a safety culture paradigm that is proactive and holistic in nature.

This could be achieved through; advocacy to ensure appropriate policies for occupational health and safety; enforcement with the whip; education, that is, safety orientation and awareness creation; encouragement by motivating employers and employees to pursue safety, re‐engineering of processes and modifying them to suit peoples’ culture and also meet the local content laws.

According to Kwamina Amoasi-Andoh, National Programme Manager, ILO SCORE (Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises) program, “A worker is killed in an industrial accident every 3 minutes. And there are 250 million work-related accidents every year.  Social and economic costs of workplace accidents and diseases amount to approximately 4% of what is produced. In Ghana, bad OSHE practices cost 9% of cost of output.”

The ILO SCORE project ensures that Enterprises are aware of increasing global and local competition and the need to demonstrate sound OSHE performance. To achieve these SMEs need to control the risks associated with their operations, activities, products and services in line with their OSHE policy objectives.

Mr. Amoasi-Andoh pointed out that SMEs are facing increasingly stringent OSHE legislation, the development of dynamic economic policies, increased concern expressed by interested parties, and commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The objective of the ILO at the workplace is to train on basic OSHE Management System including OSHE Policy formulation; identify hazards, assess risks, develop and implement controls; identify relevant legal and other requirements, i.e. industry standards, rules and regulations, ILO Conventions and ensure compliance; report, investigate incidents/accidents, identify the causes and implement corrective/preventive actions; regularly evaluate overall performance of the OSHE MS through regular site inspections, internal audits and management reviews.

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