Awareness raising seminar on occupational safety and health for members of Parliament

The objective of the seminar was to motivate members of parliament to promote occupational safety and health as a priority issue with regards to resource allocation and inclusion in national development plans.

The workshop’s participants were drawn from: Parliamentary Committee on Health and Population; Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Affairs; officials from parliament; and senior officials from the Ministry of Labour. The seminar drew a total number of 53 participants out of whom 33 were Members of Parliament.

Notable individuals who attended the seminar include the Minister of Labour, the Chairpersons of the two parliamentary committees, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and the Labour Commissioner. The Director of the ILO’s Country Office for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in Lusaka (CO-Lusaka) and a representative of the Ambassador of the European Union’s Delegation to the Republic of Malawi also attended the seminar as observers.

The Minister pointed out that Malawi’s Decent Work Country Programme which was launched in August 2011 addressed various priority areas one of which is social protection, an area that deals with issues relating to occupational safety and health. He then appealed to his fellow parliamentarians for support to ensure increased budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Labour.

The main presentations were given by the ILO’s Senior OSH Specialist based at the sub-regional office in Pretoria-South Africa and the presentation given by the Director of Malawi’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

Some of the key issues that were outlined by the ILO specialist included: lost GDP due to work-related accidents and diseases; comparisons between the competitiveness in productivity and level of workplace safety and health in individual countries; and ILO’s strategic approach to strengthening national OSH systems through National OSH Programmes.

The OSH director presented the two main documents developed with the support of the EU/ILO project: Malawi’s National OSH profile and Draft national OSH programme. He then tackled the issue of funding and sustainability of OSH activities.

The presentations generated a lot of interest among the parliamentarians who asked the presenters and the Labour Commissioner a lot of questions relating to workplace safety and health and other working conditions. The main issues that the parliamentarians concentrated on in their questions included:
  • The poor working conditions both in terms of OSH and wages;
  • The low budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Labour;
  • The inadequate enforcement of OSH legislation by government enforcement agencies;
  • Low levels of awareness on OSH issues both among the ordinary public and the policy makers;
  • Low use of personal protective clothing and equipment by workers even in cases where these are provided by employers;
  • Human settlements near/around areas where mining activities were taking place;
  • The locking of workers inside factories, particularly bakeries, at night;
  • What the Ministry of Labour was doing to give more prominence to issues of OSH.
The awareness seminar enhanced the parliamentarians’ appreciation of OSH issues. The questions which the parliamentarians asked bore-out their interest and enthusiasm in OSH issues. As a consequence, parliamentarians advocated for enhanced institutional capacity and increased resource allocation to OSH institutions such as the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health. A few weeks later, the ILO received an new invitation to discuss occupational safety and health issues with the social and community affairs committee of Parliament.