Ghana’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Bill, which is expected to transform the OHS regime when passed, will soon return to Parliament.
The Bill, which was sent back to the Attorney-General’s Department to address a few queries raised by experts when it was first presented to Parliament, is currently being finalised.
The Bill, which seeks to address modern and emerging challenges in occupational safety, is the country’s hope in enhancing regulation and management of the OHS for the benefit of employers and employees, and the economy in general.
The current regulation, which has been found to be weak, was enacted in 1970, and experts describe it as outdated and deficient in tackling current trends in OHS.
The new Bill covers all grey areas that the old regulation did not address, as well as makes provisions for specialised sectors such as the oil and gas, emerging agro-based industries, and the informal sector.
It also makes OHS mandatory for institutions as it requires companies to have internal OHS managers/inspectors.
It also gives sweeping powers to the Department of Factories Inspectorate (DFI), which would be transformed into an autonomous National OHS Authority, to enforce the OHS laws.
Among other provisions, it empowers the Inspectors to issue a prohibition notice to companies to halt operation until a detected OHS risk has been rectified.
“We will now have the power to handle the issues on the factory floor,” Fred Ohene-Mensah, acting Chief Inspector of Factories told ADR Daily in an interview.
Also, it mandates organisations to conduct regular OHS training for staff to ensure awareness and compliance with safety policies in organisations.
Also, the bill allows the OHS Authority to retain a significant part of its internally generated funds, which according to Mr Ohene-Mensah, would provide a good incentive and resources for the staff to perform.
“There is a new wind that is going to blow on OHS in Ghana,” he said.
It is in line with the Convention 155 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which is yet to be ratified by Ghana after 36 years of its adoption.
Statistics at the Labour Department indicate that in 2016, a total of 1,096 workplace accidents were recorded as against 2,697 accidents recorded in 2015. The figure is discounted by a statistical back figure of unreported cases especially in the informal sector of the economy.
The Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffuor-Awuah, last month, revealed that in 2005 and 2016 for instance, the Labour Department had to pay a whopping GH¢6.7million as workman’s compensation in the formal government sector borne by the taxpayer.
Also, he noted that GH¢5.1million was outstanding and remained unpaid for nine months in 2017 alone.