The United Nations General Assembly high-level week on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) summit started on the 18 th September 2023 through the week. It seeks to scale up actions to deliver on the SDG Goals as we race to achieve the set goals by the 2030 global agenda.
It was this same September in 2015 that the United Nations launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Sustainable Development Goals 2030, succeeded the millennium goal from where it signed off, promising to deliver the new transformational agenda.
Unlike the Millennium Development Goals that were spearheaded by the UN secretariat, this had all the UN member nations adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals considered a transformational agenda based on the scale and vision.
The two SDG Goals that relate to safety, health wellbeing, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) ; making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable are Goals 3 and 11 respectively. As a community, we win the SDG Goals at the subnational level together if effort is intentional and deliberate at making the people to take ownership of the process for sustainability.
My key pick is about managing health, safety and wellbeing and the environmental ecosystems challenges with specific focus on workplace safety. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimate that 2.3 million workers die from work related injuries, safety concerns and dieses every year.
In Ghana, the organization clothed by law under the Ministry of labor to handle and respond to safety at workplace, the Department of Factories is itself obsolete in functionality as the legal framework, Factories, Offices and Shops Act (ACT 328 of 1970) has long been moribund on many variables.
The institution pretends to work under some rickety office environment. The stench emanating from some uncollected waste otherwise called “bola” near the office compound made me shudder climbing the former GNTC building otherwise called the Ghana house.
The PhD candidate Chief Inspector, George Gashon , who had worked elsewhere for over twenty years in the safety environment and very much had the capacity space narrated to me that he had been with the institution since last October and 8 months in his new post . He organized stakeholder engagement on the world safety Day last April. The close to two hours interaction exposed the weaknesses and the challenging environment that confronted their work.
He made reference to the Occupational Health and Safety and Environment (OSHE Bill) that had been pending for the past 25 years, and which every political party has had cause to assure Ghanaians that was going to pass it into law to help give a national attention and focus to health, safety, wellbeing and the environmental ecosystems concerns.
I was in parliament that same week to deliver a letter to the Clerk to help unravel the challenges surrounding the bill and if was going to be a part of the Bill to be listed when parliament of Ghana resumes from recess.
When I took up an opportunity to work with a telecom supplier company as project implementation officer between 2013 and 2014 and as part of my job description, I was in charge of workplace safety.
I gathered some understanding and the challenges. I then authored an article “Occupational Health and Safety policy: some issues”. One of my open letters later in 2017 was “An open letter to the president of Ghana and matters arising”. If you remember there was a Gas explosion in Atomic Junction and I was on hand to address the president on that.
Road crash statistics as gathered by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) report that for the first quarter of 2023 a total of 3,340 cases were recorded. In total, 544 people have killed in various road accidents in the country since 2023 begun.
The vice president, Dr Bawumia, recently at a graduation parade of the Cadet Course Intake 23 of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) at the Fire Academy and Training School at James Town in Accra last Friday, indicated that there were 6,796 fire outbreaks last year alone, resulting in 50 deaths and 241 injuries. This rivals the 2021 figures of The 3,915 fire outbreaks and a jump up the 2020 figures of Nearly 6,000.
Equally, the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) keep recording boat disasters with much death and missing cases as they fail to provide nation statistics data.
Whilst government agencies bandy about figures and statistics across, the World Bank groups through their Global Road Safety Facility (GRSF) report that road injury deaths are severely underreported in most sub-Saharan countries. Their estimates suggest that often, it is six times those of official government statistics. This tells of a dire situation.
There are many other sectors like the mining, and quarrying and sector which keep failing on many fronts and recent quarry explosions follow the poor policy space ; the telecom sector which recruits several Subcontractors on their projects incur many workplace accidents resulting in workplace injuries and sometimes death, data which do not often come to the limelight.
One other existential threat needs mention is the trooping by people to siphon oil from a fallen fuel tanker. Authority bearers and society at large fail to see the danger in it. To many it passes easily as greed and poverty on the part of such people, but the causative agent is about the lack of knowledge about safety and isolation safety hazards.
SDG Goal 11 Target 5 estimates that by 2030, we would have significantly reduced the number of deaths and the numbers of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situation.
At this rate, we are at a crossroad and we need the political will and political, socioeconomic solution in a coordinating fashion to the ever scary data by promulgating a national policy framework for Occupational, Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE). This would bring all the splinter sectors with mandatory to safety in workplace and domestic environment to convergence policies under a coherent national policy framework in addressing the challenge in a coordinating manner and meeting the SDG Goals as signed to.
As co-Chair of the UN Secretary General's Eminent Group of SDG Advocates, this is one policy intervention that would help create a coordinating space to reduce the many disasters associated with our workplace and environmental concerns like galamsey amongst others.
To a large extent, this would again create the needed enabling environment for business to thrive, reducing the national GDP in costs from damage, giving confidence in the Ghanaian that there are laws that seek their welfare and interest.
The system as would be implement and enforced would have ecosystem with the value chained effect downstream, creating job opportunities for the many teeming unemployed graduate youth as it would mean all organizations employing two or more people would have to be registered with a the national database and recruiting people to administer their safety environment and to reporting system to the set government body in charge of national safety.
I trust that Ghana government and representation would return home the SDG Summit with renewed energy to do the needful considering that the ILO have adopted a resolution in 2022 to add the principle of a safe and healthy working environment to the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Labour Act 651 (2003) ought to be amended to reflect this.
It is my strong view that there are some lobbyists who wish for the status quo to continue for their selfish gain and interest. For the larger public good, we have to do advocacy for what would be the beginning to a better welfare society in our country.
I call on the accountability ecosystem like the media, civil society, academia; trade union leaders, industry and the generality of Ghanaians to see safety and wellbeing as a right and begin to put pressuring on the government to broader public policy discourse on the OSHE draft Bill regarded a protected document.
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A Community Development Practitioner