Only 40 out of 205 companies inspected between October and December 2018 fully complied with occupational health and safety standards, the labour ministry has revealed.
A quarterly report released on Monday based on inspections conducted by the Directorate of Labour Services between October and December last year shows that only 20% of companies inspected in all economic sectors had a health management scheme in place, as well as safety education and training provided to the workers, while 45% of workplaces inspected did not have occupational health and safety standards.
According to the report, the construction industry showed the poorest compliance with health and safety standards. Out of 44 workplaces inspected in the sector, 22 did not provide safety, health education or training to workers.
Metal and Allied Namibian Workers Union (Manwu) general secretary Justina Jonas on Monday said the inspection of workplaces in the country was very weak, as the ministry did not have adequate inspectors to hold employers accountable to comply with labour laws.
She added that the construction industry was one of the most dangerous sectors for workers.
Jonas urged the government to provide more funds to the ministry of labour to ensure that the ministry and unions have enough human resources to run a health and safety compliance campaign as well as inspecting working environments.
Deputy director of labour, Imelda Mwangala said the ministry gives compliance orders to all those found contravening the law.
The report also highlighted that apart from the food sector, employers in other high-risk sectors failed to send their employees for medical check-ups.
Furthermore, a significant number of construction companies were not issuing workers with two pairs of overalls for free as per collective agreement in the sector.
“Employers were providing only one pair, and when employees request a second pair, such employees are expected to pay for the second pair,” stated the quarterly report.
The ministry had addressed some issues with several employers where inspections had been conducted, but some construction companies still failed to notify the ministry to inspect sites before the commencement of construction work.
Labour researcher Herbert Jauch on Monday said it was worrisome that companies do not take occupational health safety issues seriously, given past accidents reported in the construction and mining sectors.
“In my view, it should become an absolute standard practice that all health and safety measures are taken to protect workers’ lives,” he stated, adding that the ministry of labour should have enough health and safety inspectors to assess the working conditions of workers.
Jauch also urged the government to accelerate the implementation of the national inspection policy because it does not help to pass laws, then keep them on the shelves instead of enforcing them.