Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

Namibia: Bad Health Practices a Drawback to the Economy

Bad health has a negative effect on any country and Namibia is no exception to this, according to Oscar Sheehama, Director: Risk Compliance Training at Namibia Safety Solutions. "How many people have died in workplaces around the country whether at construction site or mines."

"How many people have been severely injured, and how many more can get hurt and lose their lives if health and safety is not taken seriously," stated Sheehama.

He claimed that two million people die worldwide every year because of bad work practices. "Our own people are affected by this, these people are our brothers, our wives, our kids but people do not realise the importance of safety and health in the workplace."

"Ten years after resigning from your current workplace, you could experience severe back-pains and when you die, it is reported that you died a natural death. It is not natural, you died because of bad occupational conditions! It is important for people to realise and understand the importance of health and safety in every workplace."

Sheehama said that unhealthy working conditions hinder productivity and "because we are losing skilled people, our productivity levels are declining therefore our economic performance is not up to standard. "How do you expect the economy to grow if the workforce is not properly taken care of, the driver behind any wheel is a healthy employee."

He said that although many companies have realised the importance of occupational health and safety, more is to be done, and simply having a Labour Act is not enough. "The fact that we have a law on labour is not enough, if rules are not well implemented, then it is a white paper, employers must abide by the law. At the end of the day, it is they that benefit the most."

Sheehama said health and safety is not about having a fire extinguisher or a medical aid kit. "It is more than that and companies that practise occupational health and safety, are reaping the fruits with higher productivity. Productivity means profitability."

He said, "if this country is serious about occupational health and safety, we would not be growing at the rate that we are now, instead we should be growing at 7 to 10% per annum."

Sheehama said that countries in Europe started practising occupational health and safety in 1973 already, "and look where they are. Even our own Economists do not consider bad health practices as an economic indicator while they are actually supposed to. Occupational health and safety is important to any state"

He said because of lack of proper statistics on occupational health and safety, people do not take the matter seriously. "The purpose of occupational health and safety is not just there to make sure workers are safe, but also for economic reasons. We hope with the National Statistics Agency, they will be able to provide us with statistics. When you have statistics, you have a picture and a picture tells a thousand words. And it should be used as a management tool."

Sheehama urged companies to take up occupational health and safety as a very serious matter which needs urgent addressing. "Tackling bad health and safety practices in your organisation is not an unnecessary overhead but an investment in your business. Cost-effective investment in health and safety is as valuable as any other investment in your company. A combination of reducing accident costs and prevention costs, can lead to dramatic savings in your company's bottom line."

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