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Opinions of Monday, 22 November 2010

Columnist: Annan, Joe-Steve

Occupational & Industrial Safety & Health in Ghana

Joe-Steve Annan (MSc. Quality Safety & Environment; BSc Chemical Engineering; International
Member- American Industrial Hygienists Association) 00233244182337.


The rate of industrialization in Ghana is in ascendancy and this has led to larger
percentage of the Ghanaian workforce being exposed to workplace physical, chemical,
biological and psychological stressors, but has the nation got a system of anticipating,
monitoring, evaluating, controlling and preventing such exposures to the workforce?
Employers in Ghana are required by the Ghana Labour Act 2003, Act 651 to ensure their
employees are not exposed to conditions that would lead them to work related injuries or
illnesses. Employees are also required to exhibit their duty of care in ensuring that they
work as per the employers’ standard operating procedures which must incorporate Safety
and Health requirements. However, are the Ghanaian workers and the employers aware
of their safety and health responsibilities and obligations?
The existence of different types of industries, (such as Mining, Construction, Energy,
Food Processing, Manufacturing, Agro, Transport and the current Oil and Gas) in Ghana
has lead to the existence of a large Ghanaian workforce with many Similar Exposure
Groups (SEGs), indicating varying modes, extents and frequencies of exposures to
different Chemical, Physical, Ergonomic and Biological agents at different workplace.

There is a Road Safety Commission but with little standards, guidelines and impact on
the transport industry road user.

The Nation has different agencies under different jurisdictions which monitor different
industries for workplace and employee safety, however, there is no national body, policy
nor process that govern Occupational Safety & Health management in Ghana. There is a
Road Safety Commission but with little standards, guidelines and impact on the safety of
the transport industry and the pedestrian. The Minerals Commission has the Mining
Regulations 1970, which contains some guidelines in Occupational Safety and Health but
just for the Mining Industry. There currently is a draft of the reviewed Mining and
Minerals Regulations which is pending approval by the Ghanaian Parliament.
Numerous injuries, illnesses, property damages and process losses take place at different
workplaces but due to under reporting or misclassification due to lack or thorough
standards, or unfamiliarity with the existing guidelines, people are not normally in the
known of such events as well as their actual or potential consequences and effective
corrective actions required.

Given the wide range of potential and/or actual undesired events associated with the
myriad of work groups in Ghana, there is the need to have a comprehensive provision for
occupational safety and health standards and practice in the nation, with an unflinching
national leadership, support and commitment. However, the situation as it stands suggests
otherwise, hence this paper provides suggested approach in improving on the practice,
management and monitoring of occupational safety and health in Ghana.

Current Situation of Occupational / Industrial Safety & Health in
There are currently two major edicts that have provided guidance in the provision of
occupational / industrial safety and health services, practice and management in Ghana.
These include the Factories, Offices and Shops Act 1970, Act 328 and the Mining
Regulations 1970 LI 665, but these have only driven the mining and the labor sectors and
are therefore very limited in scope, given the multifaceted distribution of industrial
operations that we have in Ghana. There is the Workmen’s Compensation Law 1987
(PNDC 187) which relates to compensation for personal injuries caused by accidents at
work and hence, indirectly impacts on monitoring worker / workplace safety. The
Radiation Protection Board of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission is also proactive in
monitoring companies with radiation exposure hazards for compliance, however, due to
limited resources, effectiveness of their activities is compromised. On a proactive side,
the Ghana Chamber of Mines in collaboration with the Inspectorate Division of the
Minerals Commission form a Technical Committee with representations from each
mining company in the nation that reviews and recommends corrective actions for
reported or identified unsafe acts, conditions or failures in the existing Health and Safety
system of the mining industry. This good initiative is however impeded by availability of
resources and hence enforcement is challenged.
There are other statutes which indirectly impact on Occupational Safety and Health and
these include the Environmental Protection Agency Act 490 1994, the Ghana Health
Service and Teaching Hospital Act 526, 1999 and the National Road Safety Commission
Act 567 1999.

Though, Ghana is among the 183 member countries of ILO, which requires, as per the
ILO convention number 155 1981, that member countries formulate, implement and
periodically review a coherent policy on occupational safety and health and work
environment, Ghana has not yet rectified this convention and the nation has no
established authority dedicated to Occupational Safety and Health to guide and facilitate
the implementation of the “Action at the National Level” as indicated in the R164
Occupational Safety and Health Recommendation, 1981. However, the Labour Act 2003,
Act 651, Part XV, sections 118 to 120 apparently directs employers and employees in
their roles and responsibilities in managing Occupational Health, Safety and Environment
in the nation, but is not specific about whom to report accidents and occupational
illnesses to. It is not clear or does not specify what to consider as Occupational Illness. It
does not specify who to be responsible for ensuring the industries in Ghana implement
corrective actions as per recommendations.
Currently, accidents that occur in factories are expected to be reported to the Department
of Factory Inspectorate but Companies hardly report such events to the inspectorate for
investigation and correction. When these accidents get reported, it takes a long time
before corrective or preventive actions get implemented, hence, there is a little or no
positive effect of the action of the DFI on the factories.
The nation has seen some positive “Safety and Health practice infection” among some of
our Ghanaian companies due to the influx of some multinational companies into the
country, given their corporate expectations with specific requirements in Occupational
Safety and Health practices. This stems from their requirements for the contractors, and
subcontractors, some of whom are Ghanaian, to follow their Health and Safety standards.
Currently, the Oil and Gas sector has introduced their side of approach to managing
health and safety. This is purely based on risks and it definitely is an improvement on
what is existing. In as much as this is a good effort and helps the Ghanaian to know there
is more to Occupational Safety and Health than we have specified in our legal
framework, it tends to confuse the Ghanaian the more with regard to which standard to
follow in the nation, and what is required to make employees and employers accountable.
In the academia, Occupational Health is not an option for specialization in a typical
Ghanaian medical school. Safety engineering has not found its way into any of our
Engineering curricula in Ghana yet. A potential intervention is the proposed Safety and
Environmental Engineering program which is being expected to commence at the
University of Mines & Technology, but this is not approved yet. All other Safety &
Health training programs are run either by international agencies or some few Ghanaian
organizations but non of these match up to even a first degree, and the big question is, to
what Ghanaian standards are these courses being run?
When do we say a provision made by a company meets requirement and what
requirement would we be measuring against or what do we call Ghanaian standard?
When do we say a company has exhibited due diligence in preventing harm to a worker,
and under what circumstance a worker has been or not been negligent regarding an
undesired event?
Suggested Approach to Occupational Safety & Health Management in
National Policy
- The nation has to adopt or develop a broad base Occupational Safety and Health
policy that is in line with the ILO convention 155 as a minimum. This must seek
to address Safety and Health issues regarding all projects and operations from
design stage, through procurement, construction, operation and decommissioning.
The aim of this must seek to first protect the worker from injuries and work
related ill-health, ensure standards are put in place to prevent losses property
damages due to accidents, and must show the Ghana Government’s commitment.
- Achieving this means all the scattered generic Occupational Safety and Health
requirements under the different agencies of the Ghana Government such as the
Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Factory Inspectorate,
Inspectorate Division of The Ghana Minerals Commission and the Ghana Labor
Commission with confusing responsibilities must be brought under a common
umbrella body. Such a body must be empowered and resourced adequately to
enable them organize how the policy would be implemented nationwide and by
- This policy must be authenticated by the Ghana Government and form part of the
nation’s legal document.
- Consultation effectiveness with relevant organizations will positively impact the
successful implementation of the “Expected Ghana National Occupational Safety
and Health Policy”. The relevant organizations may include but not limited to the
Ghana Minerals Commission, Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ghana National
Petroleum Corporation, The Association of Ghana Industries, The Universities,
The Department of Factory Inspectorate, The Ghana Institute of Engineers, The
Ghana Medical Association, and The Ghana Bar Association, Ghana
Environmental Protection Agency.
- Communication of outcomes of consultations and requirements of the
Occupational Safety and Health policy is salient in achieving a good control of
the system. This can be done through the National Media Commission and the
associated private and public media operatives.
- Competency of the human resource who would be championing the
implementation and monitoring of the Occupational Safety and Health policy
must be built up. This may require introducing relevant courses like Safety
Engineering in our Universities and Polytechnics as well as Occupational Health
in our Medical Schools. These training institution would need to be adequately
resourced and accredited to deliver quality education in Occupational Safety and
Health for Ghanaians to be able to manage Occupational Safety and Health issues
in the nation.
- Collaboration between the industry, the public and the established body
responsible for the implementation, management and monitoring of the policy is
- Control of the practices with guidelines either adopted or developed by the
nation’s Occupational Safety and Health body needs specific emphasis. Specific
roles and accountabilities with timelines need to be developed for planning and
implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health policy actions with clear
reporting lines. This must not exclude penalties for intentional non-conformances
and negligence.
Planning and Implementation
Actions that need to be made to ensure the achievement of the Ghana national
Occupational Safety and Health policy aim and objectives would need to be
clearly spelt out with specific timelines, roles and responsibilities. Targets must
be set by the nation, for the various industries and exceeding them should merit
controls set by the Government. To guide the industries achieve those targets,
there has to be guidelines in areas like emergency preparedness, hazardous
material management, risk assessments, accident reporting and investigation,
workplace inspections, workplace exposures monitoring, assessment and control,
purchasing and supply chain policies, permit to work systems, etc.
There is the need also to ensure the governing organization is empowered and
resourced to proceed with continual research into workplace exposures, levels that
should not be exceeded, safe ways of completing the tasks, and improvement of
controls when undesired events, conditions or systems are encountered. These
must tie into the roles and responsibilities as indicated under the organization and
it has to be specific.
After the nation has adequately implemented the above recommendations or
their appropriate alternatives, there has to be effective monitoring of the
implementation of the process as per the specified standards, compliance by the
industry, identification of opportunities for improvement, and recommendation of
effective and applicable corrective or improvement actions.
Action for Improvement
Actions identified as necessary to be implemented in order to improve upon the
identified gaps and inadequacies must be implemented as required. The
implementation stage also requires monitoring by the governing body. The body
need to be resourced with tools, equipment and skilled labour to ensure the
implementation is done to required standard.
At all the implantation stages of the National Occupational Safety and Health
Policy, there has to be effective periodic monitoring. This requires auditing all
the stages of the national occupational safety and health management system
periodically to ensure continuous improvement.
The rate of industrialization in Ghana is increasing and this has led to lager percentage of
the workforce being exposed to workplace hazards. The nation has some fragments of
Occupational Safety and Health legal requirements under the jurisdiction of different
agencies yet has no national policy and body responsible for monitoring and ensuring that
requirements and guidelines in occupational safety and health are implemented. This
must be reflected in our academic curricula and legal requirements.
An organization need to be set up with specific roles and responsibilities focus all the
little scattered efforts by the different agencies, improve upon the approach and
implement them uniformly across the nation.
The nation will definitely derive moral, economic and legal benefits from this process,
and most importantly, the Ghanaian worker will work safely in a safe premise with safe
tools and appliances, and go back home safely.