GDC Workers demand PPE, Safety Committees
The workers say that they have been subjected to working without PPE and safety committees, exposing them to preventable accidents.
More than 700 employees of state-owned Geothermal Development Company (GDC) have issued a strike notice citing poor working conditions and low pay.
The Business Daily on Wednesday reported that the employees, through the Kenya Electrical Trades and Allied Workers Union (Ketawu), want the GDC to implement the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the period January 2017 to December 2020, among a raft of other demands. Failure to do so will lead to a strike beginning July 24, when the notice period expires.
According to the report, the workers say that they have been subjected to poor working conditions, including working without personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety committees, exposing them to preventable accidents.
Workers involved in geothermal drilling operations usually work up to 12-hour shifts and are exposed to several hazards that include;
- toxic gases (CO2, H2S released from the wells)
- Electrical hazards
- Mechanical hazards,
- Falls from height and dropped objects
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 2007 provides that where it is not reasonably practical to ensure that the exposure of an employee to hazards is adequately controlled as contemplated the employer is required to provide workers with adequate PPE to protect the employee from the hazard. The PPE should be capable of controlling the exposure to below the occupational exposure limit for the relevant hazardous substances.
The employer is also required to provide information, instructions, training and supervision which is necessary with regard to the use of the equipment as well as ensure that the PPE is kept in good condition and efficient working order.
OSHA, 2007 also requires every employer to establish a safety and health committee at the workplace if there are twenty or more persons regularly employed at that workplace. The size of this committee depends on the number of workers employed at the place of work. The Safety and Health Committee Rules of 2004, a subsidiary legislation under OSHA directs all employers who are required to form safety and health committees to appoint a committee made up of an equal number of members from management and workers based on the total number of employees in the company.
For a balanced representation, these members should be from different sections of the company as they will be representing other employees. It is a requirement that all committee members should undergo safety and health committee training approved by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services under the Labour ministry.