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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Gambia

Health and safety laws

In Gambia, the primary laws related to health and safety include The Labour Act of 2007, The Factories Act (Cap 70:01), The Public Health Act (Cap 141), and The Workers' Compensation Act (Cap 100).

The Labour Act of 2007

This Act provides the core regulatory framework for health and safety, addressing employer and worker obligations in various workplace settings. Key provisions include employer's general duties, the requirement to supply and maintain suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), the obligation to display safety information and inform employees of potential workplace risks, and safety measures in specific industries.

The Factories Act (Cap 70:01)

This legislation focuses specifically on health and safety in factories. Key provisions include cleanliness and ventilation, prevention of overcrowding, protection against harmful substances, regulations on machinery safety, and fire safety.

The Public Health Act (Cap 141)

While this Act primarily addresses public health, several of its provisions extend to workplaces. These include maintaining clean and sanitary conditions, regulations on handling, processing, and sale of food to prevent health hazards, and measures to control the spread of infectious diseases.

The Workers' Compensation Act (Cap 100)

This Act governs compensation for employees who get injured or sick due to their work. Key provisions include compensation, employer liability, and procedures for reporting accidents and initiating compensation claims.

Enforcement and Compliance

The Department of Labour is responsible for enforcing health and safety legislation in Gambia. Inspectors can enter workplaces unannounced, investigate, and issue improvement notices or prosecute for offenses.

Importance of Health and Safety in Gambia

Compliance with health and safety regulations helps protect workers, improve productivity, minimize liabilities, and foster a responsible business culture.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) standards in Gambia are derived from both local legislation and international guidelines. The Labour Act (2007) and The Factories Act (Cap 70:01) are two key pieces of legislation that establish fundamental OHS standards. Additionally, as a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Gambia's OHS standards are influenced by their conventions, recommendations, and guidelines.

Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is a common OHS practice in Gambia. It involves identifying workplace-specific hazards, evaluating the severity of the risk, and implementing control measures. These hazards can be physical (like machinery and noise), chemical (such as solvents and fumes), biological (pathogens), and ergonomic (repetitive strain).

Training and Education

Training and education are crucial for maintaining OHS standards. This includes induction training for new employees, specific training for high-risk tasks, and refresher training to maintain OHS awareness among employees.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The provision and maintenance of PPE, such as gloves, safety glasses, and helmets, is another important aspect of OHS. Employers are responsible for providing PPE where appropriate and ensuring employees know how and when to use it.

Incident Reporting and Investigation

Incident reporting and investigation procedures are in place to report accidents, injuries, and near-misses. Investigations are conducted to identify root causes and prevent future occurrences.

Occupational Health Services

Occupational health services include pre-employment medical assessments, ongoing health surveillance, and onsite first aid facilities and trained personnel.

Challenges and Areas for Improvement

Despite these measures, there are challenges in enforcing OHS standards in Gambia. These include limited enforcement due to understaffing of the Department of Labour, less structured OHS practices in the large informal economy, and a lack of adequate OHS knowledge among many employers and workers.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections play a crucial role in ensuring compliance with labor laws, identifying potential hazards, raising awareness about occupational health and safety (OHS) requirements, and deterring non-compliance through potential penalties.

The Authority Behind Workplace Inspections

The Department of Labour is the primary authority in enforcing OHS laws. Labour Inspectors, who are designated officials, have the power to enter workplaces without prior notice, conduct investigations, examine records, question relevant persons, and take samples of substances or materials for analysis.

What Do Inspections Focus On?

Inspections typically focus on compliance with OHS law provisions. These include general workplace conditions such as cleanliness, ventilation, lighting, sanitation, and emergency exits. They also look at machinery and equipment safety, hazardous substances, fire prevention measures, personal protective equipment, and record-keeping.

How Often Are Inspections Conducted?

High-risk workplaces, such as those in construction, mining, or those handling hazardous materials, are subject to more frequent inspections. Routine inspections may be based on a schedule or random targeting. Additionally, inspections can be triggered by worker complaints.

What Happens After an Inspection?

After an inspection, several actions can be taken. For minor issues, inspectors may offer on-the-spot advice. More serious violations may result in improvement notices, which require corrective actions within a certain timeframe. Prohibition notices may immediately shut down unsafe operations until rectified. In cases of serious OHS breaches, employers can be prosecuted, potentially facing fines or imprisonment.

Workers' Rights During Inspections

Workers have certain rights during inspections. Worker representatives have the right to accompany inspectors. Workers can also provide information to inspectors without employer interference.

Challenges in Workplace Inspections

Workplace inspections face certain limitations and challenges. Staffing shortages can hinder comprehensive inspection coverage. Enforcing standards in the informal sector is particularly challenging.

How Can Inspection Effectiveness Be Enhanced?

To enhance inspection effectiveness, more funding and staffing for the Department of Labour are needed. Empowering workers to report hazards and participate in inspections is also vital. Focusing inspections on known high-risk sectors and workplaces with a history of violations can also improve effectiveness.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents are a serious concern that require immediate attention and appropriate action. Employers are mandated by the Labour Act (2007) to report serious accidents and dangerous occurrences to the Department of Labour. Depending on the severity of the incident, notification must typically be made within 24-72 hours. Employers are also required to maintain internal records of all work-related accidents and illnesses.

Accident Investigation

Employers have the primary responsibility to investigate accidents, identify root causes, and implement measures to prevent reoccurrence. Labour inspectors may conduct their own investigations for serious accidents or where there are suspected violations. Worker representatives may also be involved in accident investigations.

Compensation for Workplace Injuries and Illness

The Workers' Compensation Act (Cap 100) outlines the compensation procedures for employees in Gambia. This covers employees who sustain injuries or contract occupational diseases arising from their employment. Employers are generally liable for providing compensation, usually through compulsory insurance. Workers must notify the employer in writing as soon as possible. Injured workers must undergo a medical examination to assess the extent of the disability. Compensation may include medical expenses, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, or death benefits to dependents. The Department of Labour can assist with mediating disputes regarding compensation claims.

Responsibilities and Rights

Employers are required to report accidents promptly, investigate accidents thoroughly, have insurance for workers' compensation, and facilitate compensation claims. Workers, on the other hand, must report injuries immediately to their employer, seek medical attention, cooperate with investigations, and file compensation claims within the specified timeframe.

Prevention as Key

Preventing workplace accidents is the most important principle. By upholding strong standards, including proactive hazard identification and risk control measures, workplaces can reduce the instances of injuries and create safer working environments for everyone.

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