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WAKE UP TO HEALTH & SAFETY AT WORK

Dennis Katungi

On Wednesday February 04th, the Hon. Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development issued a stern warning at Uganda Media Centre.  “Comply with Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) Act 2006 or we will close your business”.  This message goes out to all public and private workplaces who fail to adhere to the prescribed measures by February 28th, 2015.
This is a serious warning especially if you are a business, School or any other enterprise.  I am a bit puzzled as to whether it’s realistic to expect all to comply by end of this month. But the Minster’s team insisted notices have been given and repeated in the Press.  The List of compliant Enterprises/Organisations listed in the press statement had 19 registered and compliant entities.  The Ministry promised to publish a complete list of compliant organisations in Newspapers although the sample was an abysmal, only 19.   Does your business operation and or premises comply with the OSH Act 2006?  If it doesn’t, you should expect a knock on your door very soon.  Word on the grapevine is that Media Houses will be inspected first.
What does the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2006 say?
In section 40, it requires the Commissioner for Occupational Safety & Health to know about your business entity through registration. The Commissioner must keep a register of all work places in the Country and the law says that a fee has to be paid before a workplace is registered.  So, the first question to ask, is your work place registered? If it isn’t, you will be breaking the Health & Safety Law after February 28th 2015.  
Some of the safety measures at workplaces that inspectors will be looking at include but are not limited to: fire safety and prevention systems, written safety and health policy, risk assessment and management plan, emergency preparedness and response plans, access and related amenities for disabled people, trained emergency rescue teams, proper electrical safety, light, air, radiation, vibration humidity quality control and many other things.  Do not be surprised, be prepared.
You should be reminded that provision of first aid services, food safety and hygiene, provision of amenities e.g. toilets, washrooms, meal areas, whole some drinking water are all part of the package.
There is also the serious issue of safety in building structures.  Section 42 of the OSH Act requires the Commissioner for Occupational Safety and Health to approve architectural drawings of any building or alteration of an existing workplace before construction.  Measures that ought to be incorporated during the design of the drawings are sometimes ignored rendering the buildings hazardous; indeed we have witnessed a number of them collapse.  Many commercial and public buildings have been found with no sound occupational safety and health measures like; access for people with disability, inadequate ventilation, and poor design of the sewerage line systems, inadequate or no packing areas among others.  These are the issues government is looking to address through the Ministry of Labour.

Nevertheless there is a lacuna.  I asked the Minister and her technical team including the PS Pius Bigirimana whether government buildings and entities are compliant with the same Act.  The percentage given for compliance in government generally was below 50%.  This is a very serious matter.  You may soon have government inspectors going out to inspect and close business premises and returning with their files into a non compliant government building!  The Ministry should look to make all government entities compliant before preaching the gospel.

Dennis Katungi – Communications & Media Relations Manager, UMC -dpkats299@gmail.com