BY CHARLOTTE HANSON
It is in the right direction to say the least that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo is promoting the construction of ‘’ One District, One Factory’’ in all the ten regions of Ghana.
The move which is geared toward employment generation for the youth cannot be overlooked but it is also of great concern that the body mandated by law to ensure Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) in this country needs to be face lifted so it will be in a better position to carry out on its mandate, and also further extend their services nationwide to cover newly created factories among others.
Indeed, the Department of Factories Inspectorate (DFI), under the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations (MELR) has the statutory responsibility for the enforcement of Occupational Safety and Health Laws in the country.
DFI is regulated under the Factories, Offices and Shops Act 1970, Act 328 and other related regulations including the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Safety Regulation, the Factories (Wood working) Safety Regulation, the Food Factories (Welfare) Regulation and the Docks (Safety) Regulation.
The Law covers factories, offices, shops, building operations, worked engineering and construction sites, docks and other premises to which the provisions of the Act have been extended to.
DFIs vision is to ensure safe and healthy workplace within viable occupational safety and health systems and also aims to promote the labour laws at all work places, maintain industrial hygiene and maintain health and safety at the workplace.
The functions of DFI are inspection of Factories and Workplaces to ensure that reasonable standards and safety of workers are maintained, Registration of Factories and Renewal of Certificates of Registration, Industrial Hygiene Surveys, Occupational Health Surveillance and Medical Supervision of Workers, and Investigation of Reportable Occupational Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences.
Others are Supervision of Statutory Examination and test of potentially hazardous plant and equipment, Examination of Building Plans, Prosecution of Offences, and Occupational Safety and Health Education of workers.
Interestingly, the DFI is expected to carry out all these activities on regular basis, however, the DFI is adversely challenged at all levels, and that this is the crucial time and moment that the government and all stakeholders must begin to make conscious efforts towards giving the DFI a facelift ensure the minimum occupational safety standard in all our workplaces.
Currently, the DFI is not well accommodated even at the head office level. The head office is housed in a dilapidated building close to the beach side near births and death registry in Accra. Regional offices are also in very poor conditions, not to talk about the inadequacy of equipment and logistics that they need to effectively and efficiently deliver on their mandate.
DFI as of now has only thirty six (36) Factory Inspectors throughout the country. The numbers imply that the DFI is understaffed to cover its scope of operations let alone the creation of new factories which calls for more expert in this field of OHS.
It is worth revealing that these Factory Inspectors are located in only seven (7) regions namely Greater Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo Eastern, Northern, Western, Central and Upper East and Tema Metropolis which make it difficult to reach out to the other regions where the services of factory inspectors are required.
DFI also lacks adequate professional training for its staff as well as technical staff. There is inadequate budgetary allocation, and untimely release of funds and more importantly the review of the old law which has been in existence since 1970.
The MELR is undergoing a lot of engagement to have the old law reviewed and a new OSH Bill passed by Parliament with urgency. The OSH Bill when passed will give a further facelift to health and safety issues in this country and also help address the issue of enforcement.
If the DFI is adequately resourced and accorded the deserved recognition, and for that matter OHS issues are promoted, the personal injuries, the damages to health and property, the premature deaths, the accidents and the preventable disasters that often occur at the workplace, would be curtailed.
Staff of ISD &PRO for the Ministry of Employment Labour Relations.