Jul 3, 2009, 6:43 AM
A two-day technical seminar on work accidents and occupational diseases in Africa opened at the Kairaba Beach Hotel yesterday.
The seminar brought together international experts from various African countries and beyond, and was organized by the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) in collaboration with the Department of Labour and the International Social Security Association, ISSA.
In his remarks to welcome participants, SSHFC Managing Director Edward Graham said this was a rare opportunity which offered the chance to network, share experiences and, above all, sensitize the Gambian public together with other member organizations of ISSA on work accidents and occupational diseases.
According to him, the session provided a situation analysis of high risk industries in Africa, good practices and solutions to reduce hazard exposure, and discuss how the challenges to improve the overall situation can be met.
“The importance of this technical seminar cannot be overemphasized, as it will showcase best possible services and enhance the ability to identify and recognize occupational disease,” he stated.
Speaking on behalf of the minister of Trade, Mass Axi Gai, the minister of Fisheries and Water Resources, said the seminar came at the right time, especially when The Gambia has barely introduced the industrial injuries compensation scheme.
‘As a new scheme, there is the need to sensitize the people for whom it is intended to serve, and I hope that the seminar will help reach out to both employers and employees, as well as other stakeholders to create the required awareness of this important scheme,’ Gai added.
Noting that Labour legislations on health, safety and working environment have been done in accordance with the spirit of International Labour Organization conventions and recommendations, Gai said these regulations are generally for ensuring the proper working conditions in all factories and to comply with the objects and purposes of the act.
“There is also an injuries compensation Act of 1990 which makes provision for the processing of compensation claims for any industrial and road traffic accidents and occupational diseases during and in the course of their employment,” he added.
Bernd Treichel, technical specialist in prevention at ISSA in Geneva, noted that the forum presents a great opportunity to further advance the discussions in the area of occupational safety and health, to occupational challenges in high-risk sectors, and to discuss approaches to occupational diseases in Africa, as well as social protection and prevention in social security.
ISSA, he added, promotes safety and health at work and prevention, as part of its concept of a dynamic social security focusing on investing in people, in their health and well-being and on promoting activity in society.
The recent developments have brought significant technological and organizational advances into the workplace, which has reduced the number of accidents, he said.
“Today many tradition hazards have been reduced or even eliminated and the traditional view on occupational risks has changed and, as a result, many successful companies now focus their efforts on the development of a working environment which benefits the safety, health and well-being of their employees, as well as their competitiveness,” he added.
He further stated that while a number of positive advancements in safety and health at work can be noticed, the number of accidents and occupational diseases worldwide is still far from acceptable.