Ghana’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regime is in danger as the Department of Factories Inspectorate (DFI), the main enforcement agency, is in distress.
The Department, operating under the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, is currently woefully under-resourced, making the inspection of factories and enforcement of OHS regulations, ineffective.
It has a total of 36 inspectors for the monitoring of over 9,000 registered companies across the country.
A visit by ADR Daily to the Head Office of the DFI at the Ministries area in Accra on Tuesday, found that the head office itself is housed in a dilapidated wooden structure.
There are no computers and modern ICT equipment in the offices, except a typewriter used by the Chief Inspector’s Secretary.
Apart from the Accra and Tema regional offices that have a pick-up vehicle each, all the other regional offices do not have vehicles for field work.
Moreover, the Inspectors in the Accra and Tema offices use their own money to fuel and service the vehicles.
The working conditions of the department, which continues to affect occupation health and safety adversely, is directly attributable to many of the workplace accidents that occur across the country.
Fred Ohene-Mensah, Acting Chief Inspector of Factories, described the situation as a disincentive for personnel of the Department.
“We are prepared to work, but we simply do not have the tools to work,” he told ADR Daily during the visit.
In spite of the challenges, he said the department continues to undertake “proactive inspections” to ensure enforcement.
According to him, most of the accidents occurred in companies which have not been registered with the department do not have active safety and health systems, adding that if the needed logistics were available, the inspectors would be able to cover all registered companies, and “fish out” unregistered ones as well.
Due to lack of resources, the department, he said, has been unable to undertake follow-ups to monitor enforcement of its directives to companies.
Also, it is unable to conduct OHS training and awareness creation for employers and employees.
Furthermore, Mr Ohene-Mensah said the current arrangement where the department is not allowed to retain any of its Internally Generated Funds, was unproductive and a disincentive for the staff.
According to him, if it is allowed to retain a part, the department could use it to enhance its operations to generate more revenue.
This, he explained, is because the government’s subvention to the department was woefully inadequate and was not released on time.
He revealed that this year first quarter subvention which was supposed to have been released before the end of March this year, “was just received this October.”
The Department’s only hope now is for the new Occupational Health and Safety Bills to be passed into law, which would create an autonomous OHS Authority.
The Bill is currently with the Attorney-General for some modifications, after which it would be resent to Parliament for action.
According to Mr Ohene-Mensah, the existing OHS regulation, introduced in 1970, has become ineffective due to its limitations in the enforcement of OHS in modern working environment.
By Nii Adotey/adrdaily.com