The bill is currently before the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and would soon be sent to parliament to be considered into law.
The overall objective of the bill when passed into law would create a comprehensive national framework for effective coordination and harmonisation of occupational safety and health issues in the country to enhance the well-being of workers.
It would strengthen occupational safety and health- related research and the adoption of modern and cost-effective technology; in addition to policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation structures for effectiveness and efficiency.
The law, according to members of the Ghana Employers’ Association (GEA) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) would protect the livelihood of victims of occupational accidents, injuries and fatalities and their dependents and would also include the informal sector since it contributes about 80 per cent of the country’s labour force.
The OSH commonly referred to as occupational health and safety (OHS) or workplace health and safety (WHS) is an area concerned with the safety, health, and welfare of people engaged in work or employment.
The goals of occupational safety and health programmes include fostering a safe and healthy work environment. OSH may also protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, and many others who might be affected by the workplace environment.
Speaking at a business advocacy event facilitated by Journalists for Business Advocacy (JBA), Daniel Owusu Boatey, a senior official of the Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), said it was taking long for the country to get the bill passed into law.
Mr. Boatey lamented: “The policy is still in a draft form. We started the bill process as far back in 2001.
The ILO Convention 155 which will give the policy the legal backing has also not been ratified by Ghana’s Parliament.
Mr Boatey therefore urged the MPs to “ratify the ILO convention within the shortest possible time”.
Fragmented OSH laws
Mrs. Emma Ofori-Agyemang, the Director of Policy Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations admitted that Ghana had some laws and policies which regulate OSH issues but they are fragmented and prescriptive.
“There are some laws in place that regulate or point to the fact that we need to pay attention to occupational safety and health. The constitution itself-Article 401 clearly spells out the right and safety of the average worker at the workplace. We also have the Factories, Offices and Shops Act 1970 (328) that points to the regulation of OSH,” she said.
She said “Indeed others are the Mining Regulations 1970 LI 665, the Workman Compensation Act of 1987 Act 187. The Radiation Protection Instrument, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act of 1984 Act 490, all have concerned for OSH issues.”
Furthermore, the Labour Law itself of 2003 Act 625 is the very recent one that regulates or attempts to regulate occupational health safety in this country”, Ofori-Agyemang stated.
Collaborating to the fragmentation of OSH laws, Fred Ohene-Mensah, the Chief Factory Inspector at the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations noted that health and safety at workplaces started from the colonial days.
He said “The British brought the Factories Ordinance right way back in 1950 that travelled to 1970 when it was reviewed and we have the Factories, Offices, and Shops Act.”
“So, governments over the years have an eye on health and safety right from the colonial days up to this time. But they have been fragmented.That is why they seem not to be working at the movement,” Mr Ohene-Mensah lamented.