Occupational Health and Safety

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is an area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goals of occupational safety and health programs include fostering a safe and healthy work environment. It is a multi-disciplinary activity targeting four basic aspects namely;

(1) The protection and promotion of workers health by preventing and controlling occupational diseases and accidents;

(2) The development and promotion of healthy and safe work, work environments and work organizations;

(3) Enhancement of physical, mental and social well-being of workers; and

(4) Enabling workers to conduct socially and economically productive lives and to contribute positively to sustainable development (WHO 2010).

OSH has for decades dominated international agenda prompting continued support for the International Labor Organization (ILO) to execute their mandate on behalf of the international community through regional and national governments. Among these is the protection of workers against occupational diseases and injury according to WHO (2010a).

This position implies that disease and injury should neither be a norm at the work place nor lack of resources should be used to justify non provision of safe and healthy work environment by the employer. A safe and healthy work environment promotes work productivity and is a key element of worker human dignity (ILO, 2010).

Health care workers are known to be at a higher risk of infection from blood-borne pathogens than the general population. Those most at risk are those whose activities entail exposure to blood and body fluids. Important blood –borne pathogens in this regard include Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Sharps injuries contribute 30% of new cases of HBV and 2.5 % of annual infections of HIV among health care workers in Sub-Saharan Africa (WHR 2002).

To mitigate this, national governments in turn are supposed to design operational programs through which ILO recommendations are adopted and implemented with regards to OHS (ILO 2010). The World Health Organization (WHO) also developed a nine-year (2008 to 2017) global plan of action on health workers OHS requirements