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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Guinea-Bissau

Health and safety laws

In Guinea-Bissau, the primary legal framework for health and safety is found in The General Labor Law (Law No. 4/86 of 14 August 1986) and Decree-Law 6/2012. These laws set general guidelines for health and safety standards and provide specific regulations relating to safety, hygiene, and the overall well-being of workers.

Key Health and Safety Provisions

Employers are obligated to implement measures to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. This includes providing appropriate training and equipment, and taking steps to prevent accidents and occupational diseases. Workers have a right to refuse unsafe work, participate in decision-making, and receive information and training on workplace hazards. Employers are also obligated to conduct risk assessments to identify hazards and put control measures in place.

Public Health Laws

Guinea-Bissau's public health laws aim to protect the health of the general population. The Constitution of Guinea-Bissau guarantees the right to health as a fundamental right. The Basic Health Law (Law No. 2/97) sets out the structure and principles of the national health system. Law n.ΒΊ 5/2007 on HIV/AIDS focuses on preventing discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS and safeguarding confidentiality.

Key Public Health Focus Areas

Programs exist for the prevention and treatment of major diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Efforts are directed towards improving maternal and infant health, including antenatal and postnatal care, and child immunization programs. Regulations address water safety and sanitation, with a focus on preventing waterborne diseases. Systems are in place to ensure food safety and reduce the incidence of foodborne diseases.

Challenges and Enforcement

Enforcing health and safety laws in Guinea-Bissau faces significant hurdles. The regulatory bodies often lack the resources and personnel for effective monitoring and enforcement. A large informal sector makes it difficult to regulate working conditions. There is also limited awareness among both employers and workers about their rights and obligations regarding health and safety.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) standards in Guinea-Bissau draw from both local legislation and international sources. The country is a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and has ratified several key OHS conventions, including the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and the Occupational Health Services Convention, 1985 (No. 161). Additionally, Guinea-Bissau is influenced by regional OHS standards set out by bodies like the African Regional Labour Administration Centre (ARLAC).

Specific Standards and Practices

Common workplace hazards addressed in Guinea-Bissau include physical hazards such as noise, vibration, poor lighting, and extreme temperatures. Chemical hazards include exposure to hazardous substances, while biological hazards involve exposure to infectious agents. Ergonomic hazards include repetitive motions and awkward postures, and psychosocial hazards include stress and workplace violence.

Employers are expected to follow a hierarchy of controls to reduce risks. These include elimination of the hazard, substitution of hazardous substances with less dangerous ones, engineering controls such as changes to the work environment, administrative controls such as changes to work practices, and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a last resort.

Workplaces should also have plans for emergencies like fires, accidents, and natural disasters. This includes evacuation procedures and first-aid provisions. Larger organizations may be required to provide occupational health services, which includes health surveillance, risk assessments, and the promotion of worker well-being.

Challenges in Implementation

Despite these standards, Guinea-Bissau faces obstacles in effectively implementing them. Many employers and workers have limited knowledge of OHS standards. Regulatory bodies lack the resources to monitor and enforce OHS standards effectively, particularly in the informal economy. Economic constraints, such as poverty, can lead some businesses to prioritize production over safety measures.

Workplace inspection

The General Labor Inspectorate, within the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Security, is the primary body responsible for conducting workplace inspections in Guinea-Bissau.

Inspection Focus Areas

Workplace inspections in Guinea-Bissau cover several key areas. Inspectors check adherence to regulations, evaluate whether employers have conducted risk assessments and implemented appropriate measures to prevent workplace accidents and illnesses. They also assess factors like ventilation, lighting, sanitation, noise levels, and the presence of hazardous materials. Ensuring employers are keeping records of accidents, illnesses, and related training is another focus area. Inspectors may interview workers to gain insights into working conditions and potential safety concerns.

Inspection Frequency

Inspections can be proactive (scheduled) or reactive (in response to complaints or accidents). The frequency of inspections is often limited by the Inspectorate's resource constraints. High-risk industries may be prioritized for more frequent inspections.

Inspection Procedures

The inspection process usually begins with an opening meeting, where the inspector outlines the reasons and scope of the inspection. This is followed by a physical inspection of the workplace, including observations and potentially taking measurements or samples. The inspector then examines records, policies, and procedures related to health and safety. After discussing findings with the employer and outlining any necessary corrective actions, a formal report detailing findings and recommendations is prepared.

Follow-Up Actions

Employers are typically given a deadline to rectify any violations found during an inspection. Non-compliance may result in fines or, in severe cases, the temporary closure of the workplace. Inspectors may conduct follow-up inspections to verify that corrective actions have been taken.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents are a serious concern that require immediate attention. Employers are obligated under the General Labor Law to report serious workplace accidents and occupational diseases to the General Labor Inspectorate, the competent Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) committee, and the relevant insurance provider. The reporting timeframes vary according to the severity of the incident, with fatal accidents needing to be reported immediately. Employers are also required to maintain detailed records of all workplace accidents and any occupational diseases contracted at work.

Workplace Accident Investigations

The General Labor Inspectorate is responsible for investigating workplace accidents, particularly serious or fatal ones. The objectives of these investigations are to determine the cause of the accident, identify any failures in safety measures, and recommend steps to prevent similar incidents from happening again. Workers and their representatives have the right to participate in accident investigations where possible.

Compensation for Workplace Injuries

Guinea-Bissau has a social security system that provides compensation for workplace injuries and occupational diseases. Employers may be held liable for workplace accidents if it's determined that they were caused by negligence or a failure to comply with OHS regulations. Workers must file claims with the social security system to receive compensation benefits. This may involve medical assessments and documentation.

Challenges in Practice

There are several challenges in practice when it comes to workplace accidents. Many workplace accidents go unreported, especially in the informal sector. The Inspectorate's capacity to investigate all accidents is constrained by resource limitations. Workers can face long delays in receiving compensation, and the amounts may be insufficient to cover medical expenses and lost wages.

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