Govt prepares workplace health & safety legislation

The ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation is in the process of developing legislation to ensure protection of employee safety and health in the working environment.

The bill addresses worker safety and health, employer responsibilities for a safe workplace and worker rights to information, training and representation.

Labour ministry executive director Lydia Indombo at a stakeholder consultation meeting regarding the draft occupational safety and health bill yesterday, said developing a comprehensive occupational safety and health legal framework improves legal compliance and promotes the prevention of work-related accidents and work-related diseases, which may result in permanent disability and exclusion from work.

“This is a great prospect to improve occupational safety and health systems and safeguard the future of workers within their occupations in Namibia,” Indombo said.

The legislation is deemed crucial and timely, especially in addressing gaps identified in the national occupational safety and health system by a situational analysis conducted in 2014.

This move also fulfills Namibia’s obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation, which declared workers’ right to a safe workplace a fundamental right in 2022.

Occupational health and safety specialist for eastern and southern Africa Peneyambeko Munkawa, also speaking at the event, urged Namibia to seize this long-awaited opportunity, saying that it is time to prioritise occupational safety and make it central to Namibia’s economic, social and environmental progress.

“I want to assure you that the delay in formulating the primary occupational health and safety law for Namibia after the initial provisions by the post-independence Labour Act in 1992, is not all bad because it placed you in even a better position to re-group and develop such comprehensive law, with minds already tested by the said challenges and reconditioned to appreciate this as a fundamental right,” Munkawa said.

The draft bill also aims to establish a commission for occupational safety and health.

Namibia National Labour Organisation (Nanlo) secretary general Joseph ||Garoeb has welcomed the bill, expressing hope that it would address psychological health as well, as workers have little ability to bargain over issues affecting their mental well-being.

“Nanlo believes that a healthy and safe working environment will contribute to productivity, lessen the cost to employers and contribute to healthy working relations,” he says.

||Garoeb says the bill is of critical importance and needs all stakeholders’ inputs and comments.

He called on the labour ministry to extend an urgent date for inputs and comments.

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