Ensure employees’ safety at the workplace

Wycliff Juma, a mason, and a member of Western Kenya Mafundi Association who fell while working at a construction site in Eldoret. 

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Prior to Labour Day is the Workers Memorial Day, marked every April 28 in remembrance of workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work. A purple ribbon is the symbol for the day with the slogan being “Remember the dead, fight for the living”.

It’s an opportunity to highlight the preventative nature of workplace incidents and ill health and promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety.

Some of the daytime activities include campaigning, band and workplace awareness. Public events include speeches, multi-faith religious services, laying of wreaths, planting trees, unveiling monuments, raising public awareness of issues and laying out empty shoes to symbolise those who have died at work. Though used as a focal point for the remembrance and a day of international solidarity, campaigning and related activities continue throughout the year.

The origin of the day is when the workers declared “WMD” in 1989 to honour the hundreds of thousands of people killed and injured at the workplace. In 2001, the International Labour Organization (ILO) declared April 28 an official day in the UN system.

The day is recognised as a national day in many countries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (Osha) and the Work Injury Benefits Act were enacted in 2007. Osha provides health, safety and welfare of people who are employed and those lawfully present at a workplace and related matters.

Nevertheless, they make sure employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognised hazards to safety and health. A major provision for the Act is that it enables Osha to create both health and safety standards through procedures set out in it.

However, because there are very many potential workplace safety and health hazards, the Act also imposes a general duty on all employers to keep their workplaces safe. The importance of occupational health safety in the workplace is to reduce risk and accidental injuries by identifying and mitigating the hazards.

You can maintain occupational health safety by being aware of your surroundings, maintaining the correct posture while working, taking breaks regularly, using equipment properly, reporting safety concerns to the authorities for the necessary action, practising effective housekeeping, making use of mechanical aids, reducing workplace stress and using appropriate safety equipment, among other actions.

Employers should create a safe haven for their employees by creating and implementing an occupational health safety policy.  That will help to ensure that the employees are comfortable as they work towards achieving the goals and visions for their workplaces, for which they were hired in the first place.

Ellyjoy Murugi Kinyua, Kisumu

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