Employers must uphold their statutory duty of assessing risks in the workplace, regardless of the hazards present.
This was a key message sent today by Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, as he addressed participants at the start of a seminar to mark Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Week 2019.
The two-day event, at the Accra Beach Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church, is being hosted by the Labour Department, under the theme A Safe and Healthy Future of Work.
Minister Jordan said it was expected that employers would uphold their statutory duty of assessing the risks associated with any material or equipment or process that is brought into the work environment. “This statutory duty also applies to psychosocial hazards.
“And how is this to be done if the employee is not always working from the traditional workplace? The employer must ensure that the facilities are in place to manage job demands, work schedules and workplace environmental factors, to name a few.
“That is going to be an issue that we have to face and we will not be able to face it by insisting that every place a person works must be a place that can be fully supervised by the person for whom that person works. But we have to address the issues of ensuring that psychosocial and other hazards are assessed and mitigated, even in those remote locations,” he said.
Minister Jordan acknowledged that effective management of mental health in the workplace, and in the wider world of work, was a serious issue, which had the attention of his ministry.
Psychological first aid, a new concept, he noted, was becoming more and more relevant as an intervention and a tool to assist workers, and people generally.
He reminded participants that the world of work was undergoing a radical transformation with the development, use and communication of digitized information driving it as the “fourth industrial revolution”.
Pointing out that use of such technologies would affect all aspects of workplace engagement, the Labour Minister said this included the way work was organized and the safety and health of workers.
He added that new work arrangements could result in the blurring of the lines between work and demands of personal and family life.
“The failure to satisfactorily manage the work-life balance can lead to excessive working hours. It can result in increased levels of stress and other mental health issues. The management and mitigation of associated psychosocial and organizational risk factors will become increasingly necessary,” the Labour Minister stressed.
The gathering of OSH workers, trade unionists, and officials from the public, private and non-governmental organizations sectors were further told that regardless of the changes in the world of work, the same principles applied.
Mr. Jordan said a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks must always be undertaken so that the employer and the worker are able to identify any risk associated with processes and activities.
Both groups, he added, must be able to understand potential hazards and calculate possible risks. Stating that this could be achieved with the use of a model provided by the Occupational Safety and Health section of the ministry, known as the PDCA (Plan – Do – Check – Act) model.
Minister Jordan said: “It has been shown that the PDCA model works best when there is a culture of excellence within the organization with regard to the management of safety and health.