LABOUR minister Petronella Kagonye yesterday said the country’s young workers are at a high risk of taking up hazardous jobs against the dictates of upholding optimum occupational safety and health conditions required at the workplace due to desperation.
BY TINOTENDA MUNYUKWI /TALENT GUMPO
Kagonye’s sentiments come as the number of work-related injuries have remained high according to the Labour ministry with, 5 007 serious injuries and 65 fatalities recorded last year alone.
Globally, workers’ lives continue to be under threat as an estimated 270 million occupational accidents and 60 million occupational diseases are recorded each year.
In a speech read on her behalf by human resources director in her ministry Erasmus Gapara, during commemorations of the World Day for Safety and Health, Kagonye said youth are facing diminished bargaining power, therefore, they remained vulnerable to accepting dangerous jobs.
Kagonye said it was now time for the government to swiftly deal with the work safety issue as youths’ welfare at the workplace remained compromised.
“Young workers especially those below the age of 24 are more vulnerable to occupational safety and health risks compared to their older counterparts. At this age, the young workers will still be developing both physically and psychologically, which makes them vulnerable to occupational injuries and diseases.
“They also lack bargaining power and this leads them to accepting dangerous tasks or jobs characterised by poor working conditions,” she said.
Kagonye pledged government’s commitment in upholding this year’s safety day celebrations theme titled Safety Health and Well-Being For Young Workers, while also emphasizing the need for all stakeholders to shun child labour practices.
“We observe that workers under the age of 24 have an average 40% more risk of being injured on the job and contracting work-related diseases. The 2018 world day for safety highlights the critical importance of addressing these challenges and improving safety and health for all workers especially young workers,” she said.
In Bulawayo the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Western region chairperson Ambrose Sibindi speaking at Bulawayo City Hall said the high toll was largely due to small scale miners.
“The current trend of work-related accidents is appalling. In economic terms accidents and work related diseases have contributed negatively to the gross domestic product and young workers are the most vulnerable in the work place,” he said.
Sibindi said in most cases, employers fail to provide workers with protective clothing.
“Workers are being asked to buy their own protective clothing, a point we find absurd. Taking them for medical check-ups has been cited as a cost resulting in a number of workers being left to succumb to a number of occupational diseases,” he said.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions representative, Tarisai Nhiko said the economic crisis has led to failure to retool industry which is operating with old machinery in dilapidated structures and workshops.
“This has created dangerous workplaces characterised by industrial accidents and dangerous gases. The consequences of this crisis are immeasurable and they include human, social and economic problems,” he said.
Labour Organisation representative, Walter Chagadama said: “Unsafe work places have the casualty rates more likely to be associated to going to war, than earning a living.”