Ghana lacks the requisite number of factory inspectors to effectively deal with the rising number of factories and industries being established in the country.
Out of about 800 inspectors required, there were currently only 54 which was woefully inadequate to travel the length and breadth of the country to ensure compliance at the workplaces.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Chief Inspector of Factories, George D. Gashon, said the situation was not the best as it failed to meet the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
He said the rate at which industrial establishments were springing up across the country had inched higher with the implementation of the one-district, one-factory initiative of the government and with implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), it was important to improve the situation to meet the accepted international standards
As of April 2022, 107 factories had been established under the government’s industrialisation programme, with over 200 others at various stages of completion.
According to the ILO, each year, an estimated 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases while an additional 374 million workers suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents.
That means 7,500 people die from unsafe and unhealthy working conditions every day.
A breakdown of the figure shows that while 6,500 die from work-related diseases, another 1000 die from occupational accidents.
The records also indicate that workplace-related deaths exceed the average annual deaths from road accidents, war, violence and HIV/AIDS.
A safe and healthy working environment is included in the ILO’s framework of fundamental principles and rights at work.
50 for each region
Mr Gashon, who heads the Department of Factories Inspectorate, an agency under the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, explained that per the standards, about 800 factory inspectors were needed to oversee the supervision of factories’ health and safety needs nationwide.
Of the proposed number, each of the 16 regions would require not less than 50 factory inspectors.
“We need a lot of science-based safety officers.
We need thousands of inspectors so that we can enter every district in this country,” he said.
He described factory inspection as critical to labour as its fundamental purpose was to protect the life and health of workmen from hazards arising in connection with machinery and industrial processes.
Also, the suffering caused to victims of accidents that occurred in factories and the poverty ensuing in families when the breadwinners were stricken down while working in a factory, were why there was the need for regular inspection to ensure that the health and safety needs in industries and factories were complied with.
Addressing the challenge
To help address the challenge, Mr Gashon said a national Safety and Health Authority bill, which was before Parliament, would ensure that all state-owned and private factories had qualified safety inspectors to establish security and prohibit faulty industrial machines from operating.
He said the inspectorate would regulate all organisations to have well-trained safety officers in order to ensure an accident-free working environment.
“All factories without safety officers are welcomed onboard to cooperate with the department to make factories safer,” he said.
The bill, he further said, had provisions for prohibition that would make it possible for faulty machines in factories to be under lock and key and prevent the use of faulty machines after the factory inspectors identify them.
”Formerly you will go to a factory and find a faulty machine but as soon as you leave, they start using it but with this law we can put a prohibition notice and nobody can use it and anyone who uses it will be violating the law,” he said.
“If we have employees dying because of accidents in the workplace then it means inspectors are not doing their work well.
Employees are resources and when they suffer hazards it will affect productivity,” he said.
Also, to ensure that there was efficiency despite the inadequate number of factory inspectors currently, the ministry had recently handed over a number of vehicles to the inspectorate, while plans were far advanced to have offices in all the 16 regions across the country.
“Now the government is promoting the establishment of more factories and we need to increase the inspection base too,” he emphasised.
The Department of Factories Inspectorate is mandated by Act 328 of 1970 to conduct a technical safety, health and welfare inspection regularly on all premises within the country to ascertain compliance with the law.
The department is responsible for the issuing of a yearly certificate as stipulated by Act 328 (1970) with an aim of managing health and safety in the workplace.
Occupational health, safety and welfare certification promote a safe and healthy working environment by providing a framework that helps organisations to identify and control health and safety risks and reduce the potential for accidents.