DEM-Hub Spearheads World Day for Safety and Health at Work

The Disaster and Emergency Management Hub (DEM-Hub) of the University of Mines and Technology in collaboration with Gold Fields Ghana Limited Tarkwa, commemorated the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on Friday, 28th April 2023 under the theme, ‘A Safe and Healthy Working Environment as a Fundamental Principle and Right at Work’.

The programme which was held in two parts put before the public an emergency simulation exercise and a public lecture to apprise the general public of good emergency response practices to prevent more injuries and aggravated situations during emergencies and disasters.

The Vice Chancellor and host of the programme Professor Richard Kwesi Amankwah in his welcome address expressed appreciation to Gold Fields Ghana Limited for partnering with the University for the third time to commemorate the World Day for Safety and Health at Work and bringing safety and emergency agencies together to educate the Tarkwa-Nsuaem populace on proper emergency response practices.

Professor Richard Kwesi Amankwah - Vice Chancellor

Professor Amankwah stated that the emergency simulation was conducted to demonstrate proper emergency response practices to minimise injury to victims and onlookers in the event of an accident. He hoped that the partnership will develop and that in future a command centre for disaster and emergency situations could be set up in the Municipality.

In a keynote address, the Regional Manager of Gold Fields Ghana Limited, Mr Robert Siaw said that Gold Fields is proud to partner with the University to create safety awareness in stakeholder communities in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality.  He indicated that Gold Fields has set safety as its core value and has deployed necessary interventions and initiatives to create a zero-harm environment for its employees such as the introduction of the Fatigue Management and Collision Systems in vehicles which allow prompt intervention, enhance safety operations as well as reduce equipment damage at the workplace.

Mr Robert Siaw - Regional Manager of Gold Fields Ghana Limited

In a speech to open the lecture, the coordinator for the Disaster and Emergency Hub (DEM-Hub), Dr Eric Stemn said that the aim of the Hub is to promote occupational health and safety within stakeholder organisations and also to enhance stakeholder preparedness and promote coordination amongst stakeholders in disaster and emergency management. He added that the Hub works with both the public and private sectors in a number of activities which have over the years been helpful in achieving its purpose.

Speaking on the theme for the celebration, Dr Stemn indicated that the World Day for Safety and Health at Work celebration forms an integral part of the global strategy on occupation health and safety of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to stress the prevention of accidents and diseases at work by promoting and creating safety and health to reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries. He added that work-related deaths are more than the major killer diseases hence, the focus of this year’s celebration is to drive the relevance of health and safety by enacting health and safety laws and regulations at the workplace.

Dr Eric Stemn - Coordinator for the Disaster and Emergency Hub (DEM-Hub)

Dr Stemn further stated that the objective for staging a simulation exercise to commemorate the day is to demonstrate to the public the right procedures to follow to manage emergency situations. The simulation exercise, Dr Stemn said has gradually become one of the largest among stakeholders in disaster and emergency management in the country and recommended the approach to all security and emergency response teams.

The public lecture also included a panel discussion session on measures that workplaces can implement to ensure a healthy and safe working environment. The panelists were Mr John Arthur, Vice Chairman, Ghana Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Ardent Fire Protection Ghana Limited, Mr Abel Hackman, Industrial Hygienist, Chirano Gold Mines Limited, Mrs Evelyn Emmanuella Adegbedzi-Baah, Deputy Regional Director, Western Regional Factories Inspectorate and Mr Frank Asempapa, Member of Ghana Chamber of Mines Technical Committee.  The moderator was Mr Charles Opoku Amoateng, former HSE Manager, Gold Fields Ghana Limited,

Speaking on safety at the workplace, the panel outlined the lack of adequate funds to procure and provide modern protective and standard equipment and working gears, non-compliance of employees to safety regulations, lack of supervision from regulatory bodies, contractor or third-party safety regulations, logistical challenges, exposure to dust and noise, vibration, harmful gases and chemicals and wrong situation of companies being some of the challenges that are detrimental to employee health and safety.

Suggesting ways to minimise disaster and illnesses at the workplace, the panel recommended that companies and organisations should conduct regular inspections and examinations of work equipment to ensure that equipment are in good working condition, implement and enforce legislative instruments that ensure occupational health and safety, and sanction employees who refuse to adhere to safety and health regulations. Mention was also made of the need for support from regulatory agencies and Industrial Hygienists to formulate health and safety policies, and the need for the organisation of safety training for employees.

The panel also pinpointed the need for employers and employees of the informal sector to be educated and trained on occupational health and safety. They outlined that workers in the informal sector are susceptible to hazards and poor health due to a lack of knowledge of health and safety practices and are more likely to practice self-medication which is harmful and puts their health at risk. The panel advocated that Government and stakeholder organisations should organise training for members of the informal sector such as carpenters, welders, electricians, commercial drivers, food vendors, masons, and mechanics, amongst others to improve their quality of work through good safety and health practices.

The emergency simulation exercise which preceded the public lecture, was held at the Tarkwa Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) Main Station, at the Bankyim-Ahwetieso Taxi Station located along the Tarkwa-Esiama Highway. The simulation illustrated a truck transporting cyanide in boxes which veered off its course, collided with a Long Vehicle (LV) loaded with passengers and toppled on its side. Consequently, fire broke out from the truck and engulfed the cyanide boxes. The driver together with his assistant escaped with minor injuries however, the passengers in the LV got trapped and sustained major injuries. Also, in an attempt by the LV driver’s assistant put out the fire with a dry chemical powder fire extinguisher he inhaled smoke from the cyanide poison and passed out.

The objective of the exercise was well demonstrated by the emergency stakeholders through their rapid attempt to rescue entrapped victims in the vehicles and their ability to control the crowd from inhaling smoke from cyanide and sustaining injuries.

Reporting on the simulation exercise, the Divisional Police Commander, ACP George Kuma, who played the role of an Incident Commander during the emergency simulation commended the emergency response teams for their prompt response, timely intervention, and ability to coordinate and control the crowd. ACP Kuma however hoped that the teams will improve upon their efforts in subsequent times to make the exercises more didactic.

ACP George Kuma - Divisional Police Commander

Also, as part of the line-up of activities for the day, mining companies in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem municipality made poster presentations to educate the public on safety, disaster, and emergency-related incidents in their operations and further presented initiatives to address these occurrences. the programme also included the launching of an award scheme for Small Scale and Community Mining Firms in the Region.

This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work Celebration received sponsorship from Gold Fields Ghana Limited and support from AngloGold Ashanti Iduapriem Limited, Ghana Manganese Companies, the Ghana Armed Forces and Ghana Police Service, the National Ambulance Service, Ghana Prison Service, Ghana Immigration Service, Motor Transport and Traffic Directorate (MTTD), National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Ardent Fire Ghana Protection Limited, NEZO Group, Tarkwa Municipal Hospital, Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly (TNMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Minerals Commission, staff and students of the University.

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