Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a multi-disciplinary area that is concerned with the safety, health and welfare of people at the workplace (Ayubu, 2012) It can also protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, supporters, nearby communities and other members of public affected by workplace environment (Ayubu, 2012). Industrialization has brought in its wake many problems like industrial accidents and other occupational health related issues of the workers working in the industries (Kumuda, 2012)
Despite a plethora of legislations at national level and International level and various safety measures, it is found that by breach of safety norms there is rise in consequences such as accident, occupational disease and disasters in industries (WHO 2008). Such consequences effect about 70 percent of adult men and up to 60 percent of adult women throughout the world, estimated 40 million adults are finally affected or lose their life in the industrial sector (WHO 2008). Joint ILO/WHO committee (1995) noted that the main objectives of OHS are firstly to maintain and promote workers’ health and working capacity. Secondly it is to develop work organizations and working cultures in a direction which supports health and safety at work. Armstrong (2006) observes that achievement of health and safety at workplaces is critical for eliminating or minimizing health and safety hazards and risks. This requirement is threefold; firstly, from a moral perspective; managers should undertake accident prevention measures on purely humanitarian grounds to reduce incidents of pain and suffering among workers and their families. Secondly, managers should take prevention measures for legal reasons owing to the existence of laws covering occupational health and safety. Thirdly, due to economic reasons, preventive measures should be undertaken since the expense of accidents to the organization is usually exorbitant.
Despite global efforts to address OHS concerns, it is estimated that 2 million work related fatalities still occur every year (ILO, 2009). In addition, there are more than 330 million occupational accidents and 160 million work related diseases that affect workers every year (Marksnen, 2004). The ILO (2009) estimates that more than $1.25 trillion, which is equivalent to 4% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is lost each year due to occupational accidents and diseases. Bell (1981) argues that issues of OHS have not only become a global concern for employers, workers and national governments, but are also of major concern to managers of industries and other organizations. Managers are accountable for any shortcomings at the workplace and therefore recognize that it is in their economic interest to create safe working practices and comply with OHS regulations (Bell 1981). Sakari (1991) argues that the worker spends about one third of their time at the workplace. During this time, they are exposed to various hazards including accidents, noise, dust, vibrations, heat and harsh chemicals among others (Sakari, 1991).
Positioning of Occupational Health and Safety
One of the most important aspects of human concern is OHS at places of work. OHS aims at adaptation of working environment to workers for the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations (Takele & Mengesa, 2006). The main contributory factors towards OHS becoming an issue of global concern seem to be the rapid industrial and agricultural developments that are taking place in the developing countries (Takele & Mengesa, 2006).
Ali (2008) states that OHS measures are necessary for protecting the workers in a nation because they are the major contributors of a nation’s economic growth. He argues that a wide range of structures, skills, knowledge and analytical capacities are needed to coordinate and implement all the building blocks that make up OHS systems so that protection is extended to both workers and the environment at large.
Burton (2006) states that in Africa, studies on human perception and experience of environmental safety management are sparse. These studies tend to focus on behavioral qualities of the workers at the workplaces and on issues such as occupational hygiene, global equity challenges, policies, problem solving ,welding health hazards, health education, asbestos problems, responsibility assignment, health and safety and equity in the workplace (Spee, 2006). In South Africa workplace studies address issues of trade unions and democracy, job security and conditions of work, race and labor, workplace concerns, education and labor market as well as statistical quantities of studied variables (Lund & Ardington, 2006).
Bennet (2002) argues that when it comes to workers’ views on occupational safety and health in the workplace they are often ignored due to various management styles and a shortage of safety regulations, allowing for little reflection for worker contribution. Workers as subordinates often find themselves compelled to simply comply with and submit to rules and policies already in place at the workplace. He believes that workers’ perceptions on the subject are seldom considered. He states that in many industries, the plight of workers is left in the hands of health and safety professionals, industrial hygienists, academics and industrial managers. Bennet (2002) argues that the concerns of safety and health management are aspirations arranged in point form to be met by management as envisaged goals. He argues that management systems are always silent as to how safety and health at the workplace looks like, how it is structured, how it functions, how it relates to the management of the enterprise in general and how it is reconciled with the functions and responsibilities of other parties. He argues that the workers are not objects to be managed like machines or other factors of production. They are living, breathing and thinking human beings who have the most fundamental stake in any system of health and safety that affects their lives in workplaces (Bennet 2002).
Bennet (2002) finds the ILO approach towards safety and health in the workplace ideal since it seeks to benefit the workers who are always vulnerable to occupational incidences by advocating that total safety and health specifications should be given priority over performance standards. He argues that pursuing performance standards does not have the safety of workers at heart and pursues a goal of keeping the establishment going other than the total safety of workers. He maintains that performance standards contain no specific objectives and thus are not measurable. Bennet (2002) argues that ISO voluntary standards are mainly focused towards the performance of the business. He believes that ISO standards simply enjoy the World Trade Organization (WTO) endorsement and are preproduction rather than pro-human life. He argues that for a person who is doing routine work with a specific target to meet per day, the prime factor for management is to meet the target rather than to ensure the individual’s health, whose stress levels could adversely impact on the operation of the company. He argues that management’s views towards environmental health and safety are production oriented. He states that ISO standards simply address matters of policy, planning and implementation, measuring performance, audits, checking, corrective action and management review but are silent on worker perspectives.
Bennet (2002) argues that industrial hygienists simply concern themselves with auditors, disability management and insurance matters rather than with workers’ safety and health. He believes that industrial managers simply focus on issues of quality assurance, productivity, cost benefit and continual improvement rather than on quality of life.
A study highlighting statistics gathered from Namibian workplaces on common causes of workplace incidents revealed that the most common incidents at the work place occur more often due to ordinary negligent human activity than use of dangerous machinery and substances (Amweelo, 2000). This also indicates the significance of the role played by individual workers in ensuring safety and health in the workplace .With regard to compliance with regulation it has been noted that regulatory bodies simply function on a state mandate, and base their work on law and policies. In essence this ought to be in support of human welfare, yet in practice it is deficient. In a country like Kenya where industrial development has been built on severe environmental injustice, regulation is practically ineffective. Amweelo (2000) writes that the corporate veil frequently wards off the penetration of standards into the corporate world and prevents the imposition of legal sanctions. She states that “adversarial trained lawyers often facilitate avoidance and evasion of corporate liability through creative compliance with legal requirements”. She also states that a commonly preferred solution to the problem of ensuring that values permeate the internal working of corporations is to require large institutions to regulate themselves, which is often found to be effective by some and problematic by others.
Most workers tend to prioritize access to wages over labour conditions (Hallowes& Butler, 2003).This places them in an ambiguous position resulting in them compromising their lives as victims and risking their lives in the workplaces (Hallowes & Butler, 2003). If so it could mean that towards or on pay-days, workers’ behaviour might change and affect the state of safety and health so as to have an impact on workplace safety conditions. It could also mean that the first working days or two after pay-days negatively affect attitudes on workplace safety conduct, depending on individual ethical moral mind-set (Hayes,Parender, Smecko, & Trask, 1998).This raises a concern as to value; what is valuable to the workers might not coincide with what is valuable to the company. The objectives of the company might be totally different from those of the workers (Magendaz, 2004). This would have a bearing on compliance with rules and regulations put in place by the industry.
Occupational health and safety as a human right
the right to safe and healthy working conditions is part of the broader right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work, enshrined in article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Stefano, 2007). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Occupational health and safety and the environment
The Kenya constitution enjoins the state to eliminate processes and activities that are likely to endanger the environment. Article 69 (1) (g) is in tandem with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA1999) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Kenya, 2007), which require workplaces in Kenya to come up with the necessary institutional frameworks for environmental and occupational health and safety management. The constitution guarantees every Kenyan the right to a clean and healthy environment (Kenya, 2010 Article 69).
Occupational Health and Safety in Kenya
The National Profile on Occupational Health and Safety (2013) recognizes the Constitution of Kenya as the supreme law, and lays the foundation for all other laws. Although it is not specific on OHS, it provides, in the Bill of Rights, the right for every citizen to fair labour practices, reasonable working conditions, and a clean and healthy environment (Kenya, 2010 Articles 69,). According to the National Profile on Occupational Safety and Health (2013), the history of OHS in Kenya dates back to 1950, with the introduction of the Factories Act (Kenya, 1951 cap 514). In 1990 this Act was amended to the Factories and Other Places of Work Act, to enlarge its scope. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the Work Injury Benefits Act (WIBA) were enacted in 2007, and are now the principal laws that govern OSH in the country.
In Kenya, OSH is managed by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services (DOSHS). DOSHS is the designated national authority for collection and maintenance of a database, and for the analysis and investigation of occupational accidents and diseases, and dangerous occurrences. The functions of DOSHS include:
- inspecting workplaces to ensure compliance with OSHA 2007;
- investigating occupational accidents and diseases, with a view to preventing their recurrence;
- measuring workplace pollutants for the purposes of instituting control measures;
- carrying out medical examinations and surveillance of workers’ health;
- providing training on OSH;
- disseminating information on OSH to employers, employees and other interested persons;
- approving architectural plans of buildings intended for use as workplaces;
- ensuring that employees who are injured in the course of their employment are compensated in accordance with the provisions of WIBA 2007; and
- Instituting and conducting legal proceedings against those responsible for non-compliance with the provisions of OSHA 2007.
The Directorate’s policy and legal mandate are provided by the National Occupational Safety and Health Policy of (Kenya, 2012, 2007a, 2007b).The body responsible for reviewing national OHS legislation, policies and actions is the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH), whose composition includes the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Kenya) (COTU-K).
Laws, Acts and Regulations on OHS in Kenya.
The OSH services in Kenya are governed by two pieces of legislation: The Occupational Safety and Health Act, 2007 (Kenya, 2007a) and the Work Injury Benefits Act (Kenya, 2007b)
The purpose of OSHA, 2007, is to secure the safety, health and welfare of people at work, and to protect those not at work from risks to their safety and health arising from, or in connection with, the activities of people at work. The purpose of WIBA, 2007, is to provide compensation to employees for work-related injuries and diseases contracted in the course of their employment, and for connected purposes. There are also several regulations and subsidiary laws that deal with OSH issues.
a.) The Factories (Woodworking Machinery) Rules, L.N. No. 431/1959
These rules apply to workplaces in which any circular saw, pendulum saw, plain band saw, band mill, and band re-saw, planning machine, vertical spindle moulding machine, routing machine or chain-mortising machine operating on wood are in use. The occupier is required to maintain the floors surrounding woodworking machines, and fence
all dangerous parts of saws, mills and planning machines used for thickening, moulding, matching or tanning, and all other machines. The occupier is also required to encourage the use of push sticks with circular saws.
Employees are expected to use the guards of the woodworking machines, keep them correctly adjusted, and use the spikes or push-sticks and holder.
b.) The Factories (Docks) Rules, L.N. No. 306/1962
These rules apply to the processes of loading, unloading, moving and handling goods in, on or at any dock, wharf or quay in any port or harbour in Kenya, and to the processes of loading and unloading any ship in any such port or harbour. The rules ensure the provision of facilities on shore, including lighting, first-aid boxes, stretchers, ambulances, drinking water, sanitary conveniences and washing facilities, and means of access to the ship. They also provide for general safety provisions on board ship, including access from the ship, access to holds and lifting machinery, marking of hatch coverings, hand grips, precautions where dangerous fumes and dust are liable to be present and protective clothing.
c.) The Factories (Cellulose Solution) Rules, L.N. No. 87/1964
These rules apply to workplaces in which cellulose solutions are used or stored. “Cellulose solution” means any solution in inflammable liquid of cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate or other cellulose compound, or of celluloid, or any other substance containing cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate or other cellulose compound, with or without the a mixture of other substances. The rules require the occupier to give notice to the Director of Occupational Safety and Health Services of his or her intention to use or store cellulose solutions; to construct cellulose cabinets, cellulose spaces and ventilating ducts; to take precautions against the ignition of cellulose solutions, flammable liquids and solid residues; and to provide fire exits, metal containers for disposal of waste material, and fixed storage facilities. The rules prohibit smoking, open flames or naked lights in the workplace, and require persons using cellulose solutions to make use of ventilating and other appliances.
d.) The Factories (First Aid) Rules, L.N. No. 160/1977
These Rules apply to workplaces, and require the occupier to put in place appropriate measures to ensure that those injured at work receive necessary medical attention. The Rules specify the contents of the first-aid box in accordance with the number of workers, and the training of first-aiders.
e.) The Factories (Eye Protection) Rules, L.N. No. 44/1978
These rules apply to workplaces, and require the occupier to protect their employees against exposure that is injurious to the eyes.
f.) The Factories (Electric Power Special) Rules, L.N. No. 340/1979
These rules apply to the generation, transformation, conversion, switching, control, regulation, distribution and use of electrical energy in workplaces. They require the occupier to put appropriate measures in place to eliminate electrical hazards within their premises by the insulation of conductors, and by the provision of circuit breakers and personal protection.
g.) The Factories (Building Operations and Works of Engineering Construction) Rules, L.N. No. 40/1984
These rules cover the construction, structural alteration, repair and maintenance of buildings, including repainting, redecoration and external clearance of the structure; the demolition of a building; and preparing and laying the foundation of an intended building or work of engineering construction for the purpose of any industrial or commercial use. The rules require the contractors and occupiers to observe good safety standards while performing building operations in the above activities.
h.) The Factories and Other Places of Work (Safety and Health Committees) Rules, L.N. No. 31/2004
These rules apply to workplaces with 20 or more regular employees. They require the occupier to set up safety and health committees with equal representation of management and workers. The functions of the committee include conducting safety and health inspections, investigating accidents, and making recommendations to the occupier on improvements for the promotion of a safe and healthy working environment.
i.) The Factories and Other Places of Work (Medical Examination) Rules, L.N. No. 24/2005
These rules apply to workplaces where employees are engaged in occupations that expose them to hazards that might harm their health. They specify occupations requiring medical examinations, and the types of examination of employees at the employer’s cost.
j.) The Factories and Other Places of Work (Noise Prevention and Control) Rules, L.N. No. 25/2005
These rules apply to workplaces where activities result in noise levels that could impair or damage employees’ hearing ability. They specify the permissible levels of noise, and require the occupier to carry out noise measurements, develop a noise prevention programme to reduce noise levels, and provide hearing protection.
k.) The Factories and Other Places of Work (Fire Risk Reduction) Rules, L.N. No. 59/2007
These rules apply to workplaces, and require the occupier to put appropriate measures in place to prevent the occurrence of fires within their premises. They address the safe handling, storage and transportation of flammable substances. They also require the occupier to provide means of evacuation, fire detection systems, firefighting equipment, and firefighting teams. The rules prescribe annual fire safety audits, the formulation of a fire safety policy, and training of workers on fire safety issues.
l.) Factories and Other Places of Work (Hazardous Substances) Rules, L.N. No. 60/2007
These rules apply to workplaces where workers are likely to be exposed to hazardous substances. They require the occupier to prevent employees from exposure to such substances by putting various control measures in place, or, where these are not reasonably practical, to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided. They prescribe occupational exposure limits (OEL) for hazardous chemical substances, safe handling, use and disposal of hazardous substances.
m.) The Government Financial Management (Occupational Safety and Health Fund) Regulations, 2011
These regulations establish a levy called the OSH Levy, chargeable to all registered workplaces at a rate of KSh 3, 000 annually. The fund’s function is to secure the development, coordination and implementation of an effective OHS system for the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases, ill health and damage to property at workplaces.
Compliance with OHS Measures
Hawkins (2002) describes compliance as applying measures designed to comply with legal requirements with the regulator being primarily more concerned with improved outcomes than prosecution results. Compliance with Occupational Health and Safety legislations can increase productivity in industries by reducing accidents. Accidents result in decreasing productivity and damage to equipment or property (Hawkins, 2002)
In the process of compliance with OSH measures, awareness of few factors will help in preventing the occurrences of accidents (Charles & James, 1999). These factors are actual physical hazards, human factors, environmental hazards, lack of poorly designed safety standards and failure to communicate within the organization.
There have been accusations that OSH regulations are just symbolic gestures and useless. OHS measures are said not to be effective in improving safety and health conditions in workplace. This has been experienced in the past two decades of existence (Calavita, 1983). However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 2004, since the inception of the regulations, the number of workers employed in the U.S. has doubled while workplace fatalities have declined by 50%, and occupational injuries and illnesses have declined by 40%. (ILO 2009)
Herbert William Heinrich had a formative influence on health and safety practice and his safety program elements have endured to the present day as the foundation of management techniques in health and safety.
Heinrich’s theories and techniques on safety management were supported by research he conducted while employed as an engineer for an insurance company. His major research study concerned the causes of accidents and comprised a subjective assessment of the accident cause in 75,000 accident insurance cases. He concluded that 88 per cent of accidents resulted from ‘unsafe acts’ and 10 per cent from ‘unsafe conditions’, making a total of 98 per cent judged to be preventable, with the remaining 2 per cent judged as unpreventable. Heinrich advocated a multi-disciplinary approach to safety, focused upon engineering, psychology, management and salesmanship. The emphasis on psychology supported his theory that accidents were caused primarily by the ‘unsafe acts’ of employees. The minimization of technical fault supported the concept of the culpability of the injured person in accident compensation cases (Hale and Glendon, 1987:31).
The techniques for health and safety management advocated by Heinrich in 1931 are evident today in health and safety programs and systems. Techniques for safety management proposed by Heinrich include close supervision; safety rules; employee education through training, posters and films; hazard identification through analysis of past experience, survey and inspection; accident investigation; job analysis; methods safety analysis; production of accident analysis sheets; approval processes for new construction, installation of new equipment, and changes in work procedures or processes; establishment of safety committees and arrangements for emergency and first aid. Heinrich presented lost time injury frequency rates as the best available measure of effectiveness, complete with the qualification of statistical limitations still common today. Also reminiscent of current approaches is the parallel drawn between the controls in safety and the control of the quality, cost and quantity of production. The causes of accidents and production faults Heinrich viewed as similar and the control methods as equivalent. Safety, he argued, should be managed like any other business function.
Theoretical Model, source: The Heinrich’s Model
To ensure that the industries in Thika municipality comply with OHS measures, all stakeholders involved will need to work together. The management of industries should invest in implementation of OHS measures in their industries. The management should ensure that their industries comply with all the OHS measures as stipulated by the law. Measures should also be taken by the management to raise awareness among the workers on the importance of OHS. This will help reduce the level of risk of accidents and injuries in the industries. The workers in the industry also have a role in ensuring that OHS measures in their industries are effective. The workers should comply with OHS measures in their industries for instance measures requiring wearing of protective clothing. The workers should also obey all safety instructions at the workplace as well.
The government is responsible for ensuring compliance with OHS measures in industries and other places of work through DOSH office. Therefore, the government should ensure that regular inspections are carried out in the industries to ensure compliance with OHS measures. Adequate staffing and funding should be given to facilitate these inspections. Those industries that do not comply with the OHS measures should be sued and made to comply. The government should also raise awareness on the importance of OHS measures and disseminate information on OHS to the public to evaluate compliance and effectiveness of OHS. Involvement of all stakeholders in ensuring implementation and compliance with OHS will result into industries and other places of work being safe workplaces. This will in turn result in increased productivity, prevention of injuries and deaths and prevention of damage to property.
Occupational health and safety now has an impact on every worker, in every work place, and those charged with managing health and safety are having more and more tasks added to their portfolio. The most significant responsibility is environmental protection. The skills required to manage occupational health and safety are compatible with environmental protection, which is why these responsibilities are so often bolted onto the workplace health and safety professional. On an international scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have begun focusing attention on the labour environments in developing nations with projects such as Healthy Cities. This focus is well-placed, as many developing countries are caught in a trap: They have fewer resources to invest in OHS, yet because of this, they must also suffer from increased costs of work-related illnesses and accidents.
The following recommendations if implemented would improve the safety and health of workers in industries:
- The management of industries should develop laws and regulations to ensure employees comply with the OHS measures in the industries. For instance, making it mandatory for employees to wear PPE while at their places of work.
- There should be a safety and health committee in every industry that will ensure that the industry complies with all the required OHS measures.
- The management of industries should put in place measures to raise awareness among the employees about OHS and its importance. The employees should also be given trainings like fire safety training and first Aid training. Personnel working in hazardous areas in the industries should be educated about the prospective hazards and about the safety mechanisms that can help them in dangerous situations.
- The government should provide all the necessary resources to facilitate inspections in the industries to ensure that OHS regulations are complied with. Some of the resources that are inadequate according to the study include: Staff, funds and transport facilities.
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