Kenya: Companies Need to Re-Active Policies That Enhance Workers' Safety

opinion

As the world workplace safety month comes to an end, companies need to re-active policies that enhance workers' well-being on the factory floor.

This should start with an all-employee conversation and formation of workplace safety committees to support real-time implementation of practical guidelines that prevent accidents and mitigate the magnitude of harm.

According to the International Labour Organization an average of 6,000 people die due to work-related accidents or diseases every day. This leads to more than 2.2 million work-related deaths a year. Of these, about 350,000 deaths are from workplace accidents, while more than 1.7 million are from work related diseases.

Each year, workers suffer approximately 270 million occupational accidents that lead to absence from work for three days or more and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related disease.

Approximately four percent of the world's gross domestic product is lost with the cost of injury, death and disease through absence from work, sickness treatment, disability, and survivor benefits.

Hazardous substances

Hazardous substances kill about 438,000 workers annually, and 10 percent of all skin cancers are attributed to workplace exposure to hazardous substances.

Accidents can occur anywhere within a factory from storage, to rotating machines as well as disposal of waste. It is important to have personnel knowledgeable on the environment around them, how the machines operate and how they should be operated; the prevalent hazards and risks in their areas of work and what has been done by the employer to reduce the hazards. These include instructions of operating a machine and maintenance plans/schedules for the machine.

Such measures are important due to the Covid19 pandemic. Safety workplaces means continuity and profitability.

Cautionary measures must be taken to deter possible accidents that could cost lives, damage to machinery resulting in stoppage in the production process and reputational issues.

These measures start with frequent safety meetings, practical drills as well as written instructions posted at strategic points for workers to refer to before, during and after operating machinery.

While labelling would be dismissed as a futile academic exercise, it is an instructive 'green, red and amber' on dos and don'ts within factories or workplaces.

Amotech Africa has, for several years, been developing safe work practices where the management team and employees are trained on safety measures.

Manufacturers need to adopt a lockout-tagout solution (LOTO), a safety procedure that ensures dangerous machinery and energy sources are either properly shut off or are not switched on unexpectedly while maintenance or service work is being completed. This endangers lives of workers carrying out maintenance work.

Energy sources that should be locked out during maintenance could be electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, radiation or thermal.

Keen attention should be paid on manufacturers implementing LOTO, area marking, facility labelling, safety signage and spill control thereby creating safe workplaces.

Amotech Africa offers safety signage to help remind people of hazards like warning of electric shocks, safe practices like wearing a helmet; machine tagging that informs of the status of say a forklift, when it was last inspected, when the next inspection is due. Area marking warns people of hazardous areas, safe areas.

The reputation of brands should be pegged on the workplace setup. A fire, for instance, or an oil spill that costs lives is a potential source of reputational risk. It creates a negative brand image for a company. There are also legal and financial risks that come with accidents. It is important to avoid such incidents.

The writer is the Managing Director of Amotech Africa.

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