Muheua calls for education on chemical use at workplaces

WINDHOEK: Lack of information and awareness are major obstacles to safe use of chemicals in the workplace, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare has said.

Alpheus Muheua said this in a speech read on his behalf by Labour Commissioner Bro Mathew Shingwandja during the commemoration of World Safety and Healthy Day under the theme ‘Safety and Health in the use of chemicals at Work’ here on Monday.

The minister said the random and unmanaged distribution and use of chemicals is tantamount to malicious use thereof.

He said international and national laws, particularly the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Convention on safety in the use of chemicals at work, and Namibian regulations relating to health and safety of employees at work, oblige manufactures, importers and suppliers of chemicals to provide detailed information on such chemicals in the form of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

“I was disturbed when I checked the ILO statistics as at 2013, which indicate 2.34 million annual work-related deaths and a daily average of 5 500 deaths,” Muheua said.

He said his ministry has strategised the Decent Work Country Programme, an exercise which led to the establishment of the Social Dialogue and Tripartism with social partners including employers’ federations and workers’ unions, as well as the establishment of the national coordinating task-force on occupational health and safety.

The minister added that in partnership with all its social partners, namely the workers’ unions and employers’ federations, Government has committed itself to the process of developing and eventually implementing a Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) national policy and programmes which will improve the overall occupational safety and health conditions for the benefit of all Namibians.

“This will neither replace nor discredit the existing OSH requirements as provided for in the Labour Act No 11 of 2007 or the Regulation Related to the Health and Safety of Employees at Work, but rather provide for better implementation and enforcement modes for all stakeholders,” he said.

Muheua urged employers to ensure that workplace risks and hazards are identified and assessed, and that workers are educated and made aware of such hazards.

The minister further calls for control and preventive measures to be put in place to protect workers’ health, and medical surveillance to be carried out to monitor the impact of such hazards on workers’ health.