UGANDA—The Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) has urged for pre-employment medical examinations to reduce workplace health and safety risks as Parliament considers the Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Bill, 2023.

The federation presented this recommendation when presenting before the Committee on Gender, Labour, and Social Development on Tuesday, February 13, 2024, with Workers’ Representative, Hon. Charles Bakkabulindi, serving as acting chairperson.

The federation contended that firms have been led into endless court disputes and court costs for hiring people who are unfit for specific activities and end up in poor health circumstances. 

Dan Okanya, Head of Policy and Research at FUE, stated that the government should ensure that firms, particularly those in high-risk industries such as extraction, hire personnel who are fit to work; otherwise, employers will incur excessive costs.

This suggestion by FUE stems from concerns that the Bill does not appropriately define occupational and safety dangers, citing mental health as a key health risk that should not be overlooked. 

Okanya went on to state that mental health is a prevalent developing concern, and their member businesses indicate that more than 20% of their employees have mental health challenges, with some having best practices from which to learn.

The association suggested that the Bill require required safety training for all employees, such as first aid, and that such training be freely provided by the company.

Henry Saaba, a specialist in occupational safety and health at FUE, stated that the law should advocate for an increase in the number of health inspectors, with one inspector each region.

He went on to explain that there are less than 20 occupational health inspectors who are unable to observe the entire country and suggested that a health inspector be hired every district to implement the legislation in each area.

Hon. Bakkabulindi also highlighted his worry with the federation’s position, challenging the Bill’s mandate for all companies to create a safety committee, stating that the law should be equitable to all sizes of organisations.

He contended that as parliamentarians, they will not defend those with 50 employees while leaving others with two, and that the law should treat all equally.

He continued by asking FUE if its members were unaffected by the rising use of technology, which he claims is likely to outcompete employees. He charged FUE to conduct a wider review of the Bill, recognizing that it is the national representation of employers..

Hon. Margret Rwabushaija, the Workers’ Representative, warned that the Bill should include both the interests of workers and employers.

The Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Bill, 2023 intends to broaden the scope of the main Act, recognizing that workplace dynamics such as teleworking, virtual job outsourcing, and contracting have changed significantly since its enactment in 2006.

The current law does not cover rapidly evolving industries such as extractive industry and telecommunications, which the Bill proposes to regulate accordingly.

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