This is a new strategic project initiated by OSHAfrica to cater for the gap in OSH and Labour Inspection across Africa. This part of Workplace Health and Safety in Africa currently is difficult to understand and organise because of the different standards being used across the 54 countries and we felt the need to look into the issues with the hope of bringing all actors together for sharing of experiences and learning together.
When we refer to the ILO Labour Inspection Convention 81 of 1947 and Convention 155 of 1981 which virtually all African countries have signed and ratified, it becomes obvious how committed we should be in developing our OSH and Labour Inspection standard. Workplace inspection processes ensure organisations implement the practices of decent and safe workplaces especially concerning the protection guaranteed to the workers by social laws and regulations. There is also a requirement for the inspectors to report the gaps or defects within these laws and processes to government for further reviews and implementation.
When we look at the role of OSH and Labour Inspection from this perspective, you will realise they are not just there to inspect safe workplace practices, they are also very important with the feedbacks needed to strengthen existing OSH and Labour legislations. Having this in mind, we should therefore see this arm of workplace health and safety inspection as a very important component of our work without which the system may never be complete.
In reviewing the place of OSH and Labour Inspection in Africa, we realized there were three critical issues common amongst all actors across all countries, they are:
- Inadequacies in training
Two of those factors are not within our immediate control, though we are able to advice different government on improved staffing and better funding. We realized we are able to immediately bring these inspectors together in one common platform where they can share experiences on good practices and further training which OSHAfrica and other partners can make available to them.
In trying to fully understand the level of understaffing that exists within this unit in Africa, we tried looking at the current staffing levels across 5 African countries and below were the outcomes.
Nigeria: This country has over 200 million people in population (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/nigeria-population/), there were only less than 350 inspectors until 2019 when the new employment brought the figures to 750 inspectors. This was according to our discussions with the Director of Occupational Safety and Health of the Ministry of Labour and Employment. We see this figure as still grossly inadequate for the population.
Ghana: This country’s 2020 population is estimated at 31, 072,940 people according to United Nations data (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ghana-population/) but there exists only 50 inspectors currently and waiting for 6 more to be recruited.
Egypt: With an estimated 102 million population (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/egypt-population/) has 520 inspectors currently.
Zambia: With a population of 18.3 million people https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/zambia-population/) currently has only 13 inspectors with a plan in place to recruit an additional of 13 more inspectors.
South Africa: With a population of 59 million people, (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/south-africa-population/) there are 170 inspectors. From all indications, this seems to be the only country where we have a reasonable number of inspector per population. These information were gathered from the interaction we had with the Directors of Occupational Safety and Health and in some cases with the Factory Inspectors in each of these 5 countries.
In OSHAfrica, we already have functional 3 Scientific Committees and we realised the only way we can create an intervention in this arm of workplace health and safety improvement will be to create an entirely new strategic forum that will bring together all OSH and Labour Inspectors. We have succeeded in doing this, we currently have over 170 of such inspectors from over 18 African countries. Western, Southern, Eastern African sub regions are already well represented, we are currently pushing Northern and Central African regional inclusion, once we achieve this in the next few weeks, we will have the formal launch of African OSH and Labour Inspectors Network.
The whole aim is to be able to offer these inspectors the specific training they need to function rightly, capacity building and competency improvement is a key area we want to help address. We realised most of these people were just employed without any form or requisite training, in some cases where they had training, they were grossly insufficient. We feel the right kind of improvement expected in workplaces may never happen until we commence the intended training and retraining programs focused on OSH and Labour Inspection skills improvement. All existing scientific committees of OSHAfrica will offer support to the new network in line with their mandate. Example is the OSH Legislation and Policy Improvement scientific committee bringing together their expertise in helping to work with member countries in strengthening their labour legislations. The committee on Education and Competency Improvement offering training support while the committee on Research, Data and Publication will also be here in helping them put data together for reporting.
We should be able to harmonise OSH and Labour Inspection across Africa through this intervention and we will keep updating the needed skills of the inspectors. Currently they are all together in Telegram as a group and are able to ask questions in areas they are not so clear about. As a Nigerian inspector, you do not need to repeat the mistake that an inspector in Congo had already made, you just throw the issues you have into the group for discussion and at the end of the day, and you have a solution. This is the whole idea.
We will be extending our discussions to International Association of Labour Inspectors (IALI), International Labour Organisation (ILO), African Union Development Agency (AUDA), German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), European Network Education and Training in Occupational Safety and Health (ENETOSH) and others partners for support in developing the capacity of African OSH and Labour Inspectors.
Nyambari, S. T. (2005). Labour Inspection in Africa- Promoting Workers Right, Labour Education, ILO https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@ed_protect/@protrav/@safework/documents/publication/wcms_108666.pdf