Home » Industry » National Osh Policy Embraces Every Sector

It is widely recognised that there are unavoidable risks to the safety and health of those who work underground, in factories, on construction sites and in many other high risk occupations.

Particular attention needs to be paid to safety and health issues in such workplaces in order to minimise the risks involved in order to prevent accidents, injuries and ill health.

There are numerous regulations applicable to certain economic sectors, such as mines and factories, designed to ensure the safety of those working in these sectors.

However, there are potential hazards in every area of employment, though the seriousness of accidents arising out of these hazards may differ.

That is why the new National Occupational Safety and Health Policy embraces every employment sector, while spelling out some of the safety and health concerns in particular sectors.

Agriculture might not seem to be a high risk area to many people in terms of safety and health. However, there has, according to the policy document, been an upward trend of occupational accidents, injuries, illnesses and deaths in this sector.

The use in modern agriculture of machinery and equipment such as boilers, tractors and harvesters brings with it safety and health risks.

Boilers can be particularly dangerous. Steam boilers are packed with energy. They can explode with devastating force if not manufactured, installed and used with care and if not well maintained and periodically inspected by professional inspectors.

That is why there are regulations, the Factories and Works (Boiler) Regulations, RGN 279 of 1976, dealing with the manufacture, installation, use, maintenance and inspection of boilers.

The regulations specify that equipment must be manufactured to a standard approved by the chief inspector of factories under the supervision of an approved Independent Inspection Authority.

The equipment should not be used without a valid certificate issued by a NSSA They may only realise how foolhardy this is when there is an accident. When a boiler explodes the consequences are serious, often resulting in damage to property and loss of life.

There were fatal accidents like this on farms last year. Three people died and four were injured at a farm in Hwedza, when high pressure caused the boiler they were using to steam tobacco to explode.

Just a week before this accident a Banket farm worker died when a makeshift boiler he was using to cure tobacco exploded.

There are many other hazards to safety and health on farms. These may include noise and thermal stress, working in confined spaces, dust, working at heights, the lifting of heavy loads, and the use of pesticides and other agrochemicals, not to mention the danger of malaria there may be in certain areas and biological hazards due to multiple contact with animals and plants.

Some of the dangers involved in forestry work are obvious, such as the danger from falling trees that are felled and from the use of saws and other equipment, as well as the hazards involved in lifting heavy loads.

The use of machinery and equipment, which in addition to saws may include vehicles, tractors and front-end loaders, may also pose a risk to safety and health, as may the use of chemicals.

Forestry businesses vary in size. Enforcing safety and health regulations in this sector tends to be difficult, since forestry operations are frequently carried out at remote sites that are widespread and change location. The work is often done by small groups of workers.

While NSSA has a responsibility to enforce safety and health regulations it also tries to promote an occupational safety and health culture and to promote greater awareness of safety and health issues.

The safety and health of workers should be of immense importance to workers themselves and to their employers, since frequent accidents are bad for staff morale, productivity and the employer’s reputation, which in turn affect business success.

Yet despite this, there remain workers who take unnecessary risks and employers who expect them to take these risks, in some cases under the umbrella of a risk allowance.

The number of accidents at workplaces and the number of workplace injuries and deaths remain at an unacceptably high level.

The policy aocates that every employer should train or sponsor the training of every supervisor and manager to a minimum level of a certificate in occupational safety and health recognised by the director of occupational safety and health at NSSA.

Safety and health at work requires the adoption of appropriate safety procedures and the provision and use of adequate protective equipment to guard against whatever risks a job may pose.

Talking Social Security is published weekly by the National Social Security Authority as a public service. There is also a weekly radio programme on social security, PaMheponeNssaEmoyeni le NSSA, at 6.50 pm every Thursday on Radio Zimbabwe and Friday on National FM. Readers can e-mail issues they would like dealt with in this column to mail@mhpr.co.zw or text them to 0772-307913. Those with individual queries should contact their local NSSA office or telephone NSSA on (04) 706523 5, 706545 9, or 799030 1.

Source : The Herald