Ghana: Unions push for asbestos ban in workplaces and homes

As part of its continuing effort to ban the use of asbestos, BWI organised a two-day workshop on 11-12 November in Accra, Ghana. 

The workshop, which was attended by 16 participants from BWI affiliates, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), employers’ groups and government agencies, discussed the absence of clear national programmes and policies in Ghana to regulate and/or ban the use of asbestos. The participants said that the lack of clear regulations is alarming given that the country’s health ministry spends more than 10 percent of its budget for the treatment of asbestos-related cancer. 

This was confirmed by the workshop’s resource persons from the Department of Factory Inspectorate, Ministry of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. They all agreed that asbestos remains a silent killer of many workers in Ghana. 

Kingsley Amo Brempong, Senior Factories Inspector at the Department of Factory Inspectorate, said that his department is focused on addressing the issue at the construction industry due to its precarious working conditions that resulted in work-related injuries and deaths unparalleled by other industries. “Asbestos is still a major concern which must be met with sustainable campaigns that calls for its ban in workplaces and homes,” he said.  

Michael Adumatta Nyantakyi, PWU General Secretary and BWI Executive Committee Titular Member for West Africa said that there is a need for Ghana to invest on a comprehensive research on the impact of asbestos exposure at workplaces and communities. In particular, he said that asbestos fiber breaks easily when poorly handled. This could be unknowingly inhaled by people and severely undermine their health.    

Trade unions agreed to launch a strong awareness campaign against the use of asbestos in Ghana, lobby their government to ratify ILO Convention Nos. 139 and 162, and in the immediate, put Chrysotile or white asbestos under the “prior informed consent” (PIC) category. PIC promotes shared responsibility and cooperation in the international trade of hazardous chemicals. It protects human health and the environment by providing importing countries with information on how to store, transport, use and dispose of hazardous chemicals safely.