Time bomb: Health and safety practices in Ghana

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Safety and Health in the industry is important to keep employees and employers out of operational related injuries and illnesses. It also prevents adverse impacts on the environment and the public.

In Ghana, the need to practice health and safety by the citizens is a basic legal requirement backed by constitutional provision. The Constitution 1992 Article 24, Clauses 1 and 2 are clear about that, and with this being found in the supreme law of the land, it becomes the Grundnorm from which all other related laws take their validity.

In practice, the constitutional provision in Safety and Health must lead to an enactment of an Act of parliament in Safety and Health, (which is missing) from which all other delegated laws in Safety and Health should take their validity.

This missing Act must be enacted to cut across the entire country’s activities socially, economically, industrially, domestically, etc.

The LI’s, Policies, Procedures, Management Systems, etc., must all take their validity from the Act, which we are unfortunately missing. The sections in the required Act will serve as the common basis on which performance, compliance and deliverables in Health and Safety practice can be measured and benchmarked against, irrespective of the industry in question.

Under the current situation, we are missing the basic Act as a country, therefore, there are many delegated laws taking their validity from different norms, hence, the uncommon base for measurement, monitoring and benchmarking. This is what has resulted in fragmented legal requirements under different jurisdictions as explained in the international publication;  Annan J-S, et al., A Call for Action to Improve Occupational Health and Safety in Ghana and a Critical Look at the

Existing Legal Requirement and Legislation, Safety and Health at Work (2015)

Others put up and argument that since Ghana has sanctioned international treaties in Safety and Health, we must work in compliance with the treaties. But this does not work as easily as it sounds. Ghana, as per our constitution 1992 Article 75 (2), is a dualist state, meaning, sanctioning international treaties does not imply they become laws automatically. They have to go through Parliament before they become enforceable rules in the country.  

This explains the fact that we can have many rules, but not all rules are enforceable until they become laws. Better put, all Laws can be referred to as rules, but not all rules are necessary laws.

It is, therefore, important to note that effective legal system and provisions are required for effective implementation of legal requirements. The policies and procedures take their validity from the Legislative Instruments, (LI’s). 

The LI’s take their validity from the Act. And the Act takes its validity from the Constitution which in this case, serves as the basic norm.

Ghana needs to act on an Act of parliament for Safety and Health, and until such a time, we will keep having fragmented legal provisions under myriads of different jurisdictions, while accidents will be engulfing us in all areas of our economy without effective control, responsibility and accountability, due to unaddressed systemic failures.

Time to act is long overdue!