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Health and safety regulation and registration defects in Tanzania

A semi-autonomous state agency is trying to rectify health and safety regulation defects, and professional registration defects in Tanzania.

Construction causes the second highest rate of injuries, after mining, and many occupational diseases, writes Joshua Matiko of the Occupational Safety and Health Authority in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Tanzania has had a semi-autonomous Occupational Safety and Health Authority, in the Ministry of Labour, for 12 years. The Occupational Safety and Health Act followed nine years ago.

Some state institutions responsible for occupational health and safety are under different ministries, such as the Health, Works and Infrastructure, Environment, and Local Government.

Several public institutions have some health and safety responsibilities at different levels;
• Contractor’s Registration Board (CRB)
• National Construction Council (NCC)
• Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA)
• local authorities
• Environmental Protection Agency.

The function of the Contractor’s Registration Board Act is to regulate and develop a competitive and sustainable construction industry that includes contractors who observe health and safety during project execution.

Professional registration defects

The National Construction Council Act does not clearly provide for how to administer health and safety in the industry.

The Engineers’ Registration Act, as well as the Architects and Quantity Surveyors Registration Act aim to ensure that projects are designed and constructed in accordance with health and safety standards. However, these pieces of legislation have several shortfalls;

• Each regulatory body operates separately. There are no clear coordination of activities and no sharing of information among regulatory bodies. Each regulatory body has been established under a different Act and the bodies are administering their own Acts.

• Most of these Acts apply only to large-scale projects for commercial and industrial use. The Acts do not apply to small and medium-sized projects, especially small residential buildings. Some Acts also apply only to the projects that last for more than six weeks.

• Almost all the Acts place all responsibilities for the promotion of OHS on the main contractor. This implies that the employer (the client) has no responsibility to promote OHS. Since the client is the financer of the project, the main responsibility to promote health and safety should be given to the client.

• Some of the legislation requires the appointment of safety and health supervisors, but no qualifications have been set for safety and health supervisors.

• Some legislation requires the compilation of a health and safety arrangement plan for a building exceeding the height of three storeys, but does not require that the plan is submitted to the authorities for approval. The provision does not define what details the plan should include.

• Inadequate enforcement of legislation. The law requires a safety and health policy and a workplace risk assessment. However only six (18%) out of 33 directors who responded to a questionnaire had a safety and health policy in their companies.

• The laws do not set OHS requirements for a contractor to qualify to be awarded the project.

• There is no reliable mechanism for reporting and recording occupational accidents and diseases. The existing mechanisms serve for compensation or upgrading the rank of the construction firm. Often a number of accidents are not reported and accidents that are reported are not analysed. Statistics on occupational accidents and diseases are not produced.

How to improve construction health and safety regulation

All the parties involved should be given roles to play. Clear responsibilities should be defined for the key players and boundaries of jurisdiction between regulatory bodies should be clearly demarcated by harmonizing the existing legislation.

Regulatory bodies in collaboration with stakeholders should regularly review the OHS legislation and codes of practice in the light of experience and technological progress. The law must be clear, consistent, and comprehensive, and without conflict between regulatory bodies.

A systemic approach to health and safety is required at construction sites. This includes establishing national health and safety guidelines, to be customized at enterprise level. The guidelines should set minimum OHS requirements to be met by contractors before the contract is awarded.

The requirements could be in the form of a pre-tender or post-tender OHS qualification system, and a mechanism to audit and enforce the system should be put in place.

The guidelines should set a comprehensive mechanism for reporting and recording occupational diseases and accidents.

Workplace risk assessment at construction sites is another essential element. Hazards associated with activities should be identified and the effects of exposure to those hazards should be evaluated. Measures to control safety and health hazards to levels as low as possible should be implemented.

There should be programmes for capacity building, where skills and competences can be acquired in OHS-related fields.

Provision should be made to fund OHS activities in construction projects in the bidding process.

Professionals and designers should also consider health and safety aspects during the designing stage, and provision for health and safety should be shown in the bill of quantities.

Professionals should also ensure that the project design includes adequate information about aspect of the project, including articles, substances, structures, or materials, that may affect workers’ health and safety.

The client should assume full responsibility for ensuring workers’ health and safety, and ensure that the main contractor is responsible for co-ordinating the promotion of health and safety by subcontractors, in conformity with his own safety and health programmes.

High risk methods, jobs and equipment should be regulated and managed by additional measures.

• Joshua Matiko is at the Occupational Safety and Health Authority in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This post is an extract from a referenced paper first published in the African Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

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