Graphic Business News

Amputees crying for compensation?

By: Mawuli Zogbenu
Employers are mandated to set aside funds to compensate its employees who may sustain injury or die at the workplace.
Employers are mandated to set aside funds to compensate its employees who may sustain injury or die at the workplace.

‘It is for the sake of the uncertain future that the duck practises how to stand on one leg’- an African proverb

The Daily Graphic in its December 13, 2017 issue reported the concerns raised by officials of the Orthopaedic Training Centre (OTC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), to the effect that injured and amputated workers were mostly left to their fate by their employers.

The story went further to state thus: ‘…the disturbing concern is that many of these amputees had jobs before these handicaps happened and their companies give them a low percentage of money for the accident they suffer’, according to the OTC.

This only reminded me of my visit to one of the biggest retail shops in the country to buy meat during which I saw a butcher holding a big chunk of meat and passing it through a very sharp electric mini-guillotine (cutter) chopping it into smaller pieces with his bare hands and no protective gears on turning a blind eye to its attendant dangers.

A related incident on November 14, 2017 also published a story on a 19-year-old young man who was abandoned by his superior after a plastic recycling machine at the factory he was working with chopped off his hand on September 16, 2017.

The news story indicated that after the incident, the young man’s boss showed up just once to foot his medical bills and gave him GH¢60 for transportation home and that was it!

This week’s write-up has been triggered by these concerns as I attempt to throw more light on the relevant insurance policies employers and employees themselves are to consider.

 Safety Consciousness of the Ghanaian Worker
I have witnessed many Ghanaian workers in factories and other work environments with no protective gears on as they would often boast of how long they have ‘done this’ and, therefore, expect nothing untoward to happen to them.

Sometime in 2014, a related story was reported on a road construction worker around the Burma Camp area who was crushed to death by a crane, while performing his duties.

An expatriate project supervisor, when interviewed, lamented the fact that the workers had a habit of not wanting to wear their protective gears even when they were provided with the very essential ones.

It is usually easy to draw conclusions from afar, that it is either some employers are taking their employees for granted or just exploiting their ignorance or the inclination of bemusement as to why many employees are reluctant to use their protective apparel, and whether these employees are aware that their employers are required by law to provide them with a workmen’s compensation insurance policy which encompasses personal accident insurance.

The Workmen’s Compensation Act
The Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1987 (PNDCL 187), Section 1, states as follows: “This Act applies to employees employed by the Republic, as well as private persons, except in the case of the Armed Forces.”

 In Section 2, of the same Act, it states that “Where an employee sustains personal injury by accident arising out of, and in the course of employment, the employer is liable, subject to this Act, to pay compensation in accordance with this Act.”

The workmen’s compensation policy
The Workmen’s Compensation policy provides indemnity for the employer against its legal liability for injuries to its employees resulting from accidents and / or death occurring in the course of their employment.

 It is mandatory for all employers of labour to set aside funds to compensate any employee who may sustain injury and / or die at the workplace, whether or not the employer is to blame, as clearly stipulated under The Workmen's Compensation Act, 1987. 

Employers pay the premiums for this type of insurance, and shall not require the employee to contribute to the cost of compensation.

Normally with the Workmen’s Compensation insurance package, claims are paid based on the insured amount and the degree of incapacitation with the final computation done at the Labour Office. This typically applies to workers in the course of work-related activities. Most insurers, however, have designed Group Life Policies to include a Group Personal Accident (GPA) on a 24-hour basis, critical illness, as well as Workmen’s Compensation Cover.

For the sake of limbs being accidentally severed, I would like to throw some more light on personal accident as follows:

Personal Accident (PA) Insurance
Personal accident (PA) insurance is an annual insurance policy which provides compensation in the event of injuries, disabilities or death caused solely by violent, accidental, external and visible events. 

There are two main types of Personal Accident Insurance policies:

•    Group Personal Insurance: This is a collection of individuals taking the same policies but this time in a group and can be purchased by the employer usually at discounted premiums.

•    Individual Personal Accident Policies are policies that can be purchased by an individual to protect himself / herself against accidental occurrences regardless of whether at the workplace or sleeping in his or her bedroom! This will cover impairment, life-long injuries, short-term injuries and death. This policy is a personal decision a worker can make as the quantum of benefits may vary based on how much premiums he or she is able to pay.

Dismemberment is Critical
In accidental disability, in case the sports person is partially or wholly disabled, the policyholder will be compensated. This means that any part of the policyholder’s body such as the foot or arm that has been severed or affected will be compensated for.

Implications for not having a PA

Not having the right insurance policies in place can have seriously immeasurable economic repercussions on family and dependants. Like the concern of the Orthopaedic Training Centre, regular earnings are truncated when a worker is permanently disabled. Meanwhile, as one ages this is the time medical bills and responsibilities keep rising in addition to taking care of the family.

The responsibility of employers
Most employers, to the best of my knowledge, are fully aware of the compulsory insurance cover for their employees, but some play on the ignorance of these employees and do not provide it all in the bid to cut down cost.

This is the reason I am personally excited by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) bill, yet to be passed.

The responsibility of employees
The employees themselves must be interested in what type of protection / compensation is there for them. Surprisingly, some operations staff in some of the highly hazardous work environments such as the breweries, printing presses, and construction firms for whatever reason(s), refuse to adhere to safety standards, thinking that, in the Ghanaian parlance ‘they are doing somebody else’.

The way forward
Most of us know about the need to protect ourselves and its purposeful requirement, but remain silent on compliance until we hear of accidents at the workplaces, with sad records of injuries, amputations and deaths.

Law enforcement
The enforcement of the law to provide insurance cover for all workers must be a collective responsibility. The employer, the employee, Trades Unions, the Labour Department and of course the Factories Inspectorate Division (FID), which has been mandated to inspect factories, shops and offices with the aim of safeguarding the health, welfare and safety of persons employed within or around the premises and issue licences for the operation of businesses on such premises) all have a role to play.

Until next week, “This is insurance from the eyes of my mind”.