Thursday, 4 July 2019

On Bended Knees: OSH practice in the absence of National law/Enforcement

Diana-facilitating a
safe learning space.
One will expect the practice of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) to resonate with a workforce free form harm, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), workers must enjoy the rights to a decent workplace and this must be ensured by the employer prior to the commencement of work (ILO Conventions nos. 161 & 187). This is not just a common practice, but a concept deeply enshrined in the regulations of many nations. The United States of America’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) mandates the creation of a safe workplace by every employer through adequate Risk Management procedure; United Kingdom requires the implementation of measures which encompasses the conduct of adequate Risk assessment and the fullest implementation of mitigative measures to reduce identified risk to levels As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) prior to start of any work. These laws which of course began in majestic nations, radiated across and took hold of other countries which enacted laws to regulate work practices. OSH best practices spread across continents parallel to ones of previous colonial powers and many nations in Africa took the wave and lately began inculcating these policies into the labor structure and national frameworks such as their constitutions. As practical and straight forward as Health and Safety Regulations might seem, the rights of workers still lie at the foot-mercy of employers in many nations around the globe, Africa being a continent of focus. African nations struggling to bend the arms of corruption and mend her weakening economies quickly accept millions of dollars grants and so-called investments to boost economies and enhance infrastructural development, although some being politically motivated (An example is Government’s quest for reelection by the people compel her to take a pretensions developmental posture, leading to a flaccid display of pseudo-developmental initiative at detriment of the people). Most of these are dependent on donor funds. Some donor countries then dictate the rules and implementors are usually companies from these countries, making them infallible. Quite frequently, there are indications that some investments are not healthy, but governments make no effort to demand straighter deals for fear that economic instability could limit growth and have unpredictable consequences. In Liberia and other African nations, the situation is more pathetic, the lack of OSH laws, massive poverty and the lack of professionals continues to hold back the progress of OSH. Companies practicing OSH (e.g. in Liberia) usually conduct self-audit based on their so called best international practice which cannot be verified by any agency in the country. In fact, Liberia keeps no record of OSH violation nor are there OSH investigations carried out following incidents.


Liberia has for a long time had a poor economy and was rated one of the world’s poorest countries by the World bank (DATA); as the countries reeves slowly from its slumber, where nationalist and technocrats tried to steer the nation to the vibrant future the next generations belongs, it is prudent to develop and fully implement an OSH policy. Based on opinion, one would argue that two factors hold back the enactment of such law: the lack of professional and the unwillingness as it is not priority. To further discuss the latter, let’s digress a little and give an example, corruption cases lingered in some instances not because there is no evidence, but some decision makers feel that it is at a lower rung on the priority ladder and as such, more urgent issues must be firstly taken care of. Others would have varying arguments, but the overall fact remains that such hierarchical arrangement when it comes to policy implementation in Liberia sprawls beyond the urgency in the state’s moral obligation to preferential acceptance of logic. The practice of OSH remains cardinal and an integral part of human rights, the failure of nations investing in Liberia, Africa and the world at large to ensure that OSH is mandatory and is regulated remains inexcusable and baffling to many. “ONE” is too much and we as a people must ensure that everyone is accounted for at the end of each shift. There have been numerous internationally funded projects in Liberia and other nations which we all applaud, yet much needs to be done to ensure that those working on these projects return home at the end of each day; that children are with their parents (this is a fundamental right which you take away if you do not ensure those parents return home safety).

All is not lost, although Liberia did not out-rightly enact an OSH law, like the decent work law, the constitution laid the basis for one but until OSH law is enacted and fully implemented, we stay on bended knees, our fates in the hands of our employers

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Stay safe…
Habib K.N Sheriff

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