Ghana is committed to formulating a National Occupational Health Policy towards sustaining improvement in workplaces for national development, Mr. Joseph Yieleh Chireh, Minister of Health, said on Wednesday.
The policy, he said at a forum on Healthy Workplace Programmes for Industry in Accra, would seek to develop the necessary structures for enforcing and monitoring health and sanitation at workplaces.
This policy places health at the centre of development and implies that the pre-requisite for sustaining productivity is a productive workforce maintained in an optimum state of health.
The forum is aimed at deliberating on practical means of facilitating the development of comprehensive healthy workplace programmes and the enhancement of existing areas in the interest of workers, employers and owners of businesses.
It also seeks to promote mental and physical health, safety and well-being of employees and provide information and services which would help them to adopt healthy lifestyles and injuries and prevent disease.
The event organized by the Ministry of Health brought together participants from the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, Ghana Employers’ Association, Trades Union Congress and Ghana Business School of the University of Ghana.
Mr Yieleh Chireh said safety of a workforce was vital to the nation’s economic growth.
He said Ghana was saddled with a myriad of occupational health challenges most of which it had taken for granted either out of ignorance or the blatant refusal to invest in safety.
“We are all witness to the recent reports of injury following an explosion at Tema Steel Company. This is just the tip of the iceberg as hundreds of incidents occur around the country on a daily basis but do not hit the headlines.”
Mr Yieleh Chireh said insanitary workplace conditions such as poor toilet facilities and lack of potable water were the causes of increased communicable diseases like tuberculosis and diarrhoea.
He said the cost of ill-health due to these conditions and the resulting loss of productivity could be immense.
“Indeed the ILO estimates that 14 per cent of the GDP of countries is lost to workplace ill health and injury,” the minister said.
He called on managements of companies to embrace the challenge to help improve health and safety at workplaces.
Madam Joyce Aryee, Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Mines, said Ghana lost a lot of man-hours because of poor infrastructure for health and sanitation in the workplace.
He called for the improvement of health and sanitation in work places to increase productivity.