UGANDA—The Ugandan government has proposed an adjustment to its health and safety legislation that would force all firms to implement workplace health and safety safeguards.

According to the Gender, Labour, and Social Development Ministry, occupational accidents, sicknesses, and injuries cost the country 4% of GDP.

A 2019 study of workplace injuries conducted by researchers at Makerere University discovered that one in every three construction workers in Kampala had been injured on the job.

70% of the injuries occurs among nightshift workers, indicating the true human cost of the country’s construction boom as a result of rapid urbanisation.

Furthermore, WHO points out that health laws are used to formalize commitment to goals, such as universal health coverage (UHC), thus establishing an impetus for action.

UHC provides financial stability by facilitating access to it through legal processes for revenue generation, pooling, purchasing, and the establishment of a country benefit package.

By recognizing legal access rights to vital health services, medications, and vaccines by eradicating legal access barriers to universal access, such as discrimination.

Furthermore, UHC fulfils six essential healthcare quality objectives: safety, equality, efficacy, patient-centeredness, efficiency, and timeliness of healthcare services.

To facilitate cooperation and achieve health goals, people utilize the law to establish various organizations, such as hospitals and connections, such as contracts for delivering health services.

Organizations, whether health ministries, the business sector, or civil society, all have mandates, policies, and strategies based on legislative norms that influence their operations.

Only firms with “at least twenty employees at a workplace” are required to have such safeguards in place under the current law, which was introduced in 2006.

Under the proposed legislation, all employers will be compelled to form a committee to design and administer workplace occupational safety and health policies.

This amendment is part of a bill aimed at modernizing the country’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (2006).

In addition to the proposed amendment, the Ugandan government is attempting to address rising safety and health problems through Betty Amongi, the Minister for Gender, Labour, and Social Development.

Amongi stated that “since the principal act’s enactment in 2006, there has been a significant change in the workplace such as teleworking, virtual jobs, outsourcing, and subcontracting of labour that the new law intends to cater for,” according to a statement from the Ugandan Parliament’s press office.

On January 9th, Minister Amongi introduced the proposed modifications, titled “Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Bill, 2023,” in which the Ugandan government claims that the 18-year-old law was built for businesses with a large workforce.

However, this has altered as greater automation of labour has reduced the number of personnel required for particular work tasks, creating totally new safety and health challenges.

As a result, the new law strengthens existing litigation procedures while introducing new ones, such as allowing health and safety inspectors to initiate legal action in conjunction with the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Employers will also be required to commission a risk assessment report and implement measures to prevent exposure to dangers such as noise, dust, and vibration.

The present law requires workers’ compensation insurance for all enterprises operating in Uganda, but observers have noted that other labour reforms have been delayed and ineffectual, particularly for the informal sector.

While the new modifications are fairly progressive, if not late, the true work of safeguarding employee health and safety in the workplace lies in execution.

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