An inaugural conference on occupational health in The Gambia: exploring the world through international occupational health programs
NLM Title Abbreviation
This conference on workplace safety was a success for both the Gambians who attended and the Americans involved in planning, implementing, and funding the conference. The Americans were delighted to bring about some understanding of worker safety to a country that has struggled with labor issues for centuries. The dialogue reflected the concern that stakeholders in both countries have for labor issues, but there is a tremendous need for ongoing partnership with industrialized countries to bring these ideas and strategies to fruition. The Gambia has received some assistance in the area of economic development, but not in improving workplace safety. A wide range of economic support activities have been initiated by the ILO in The Gambia during the past 20 years. This has included providing guidance with international labor standards, assistance to the development of labor and related services, support to employer and worker organizations, vocational training, job creation and employment policy, and small enterprise development. Many challenges lie ahead for The Gambia in improving workplace safety. Serious concerns remain related to minimum safeguards in the workplace. For example, the Labor Act specifies safety equipment that an employer must provide for employees working in designated occupations, but these are rarely offered (Culp et al., 2003). Workers are plentiful and jobs are not, so workers tend to take any employment they can without regard to working conditions. The government has not formally revoked employers who have contributed to worker deaths. Industrial inspections are conducted, although there is little consequence for violations. The cycle of poverty, younger workers, and lack of education also contribute to many worker safety issues. Farm workers cannot read instructions on pesticide containers and industrial employees cannot understand workplace hazard communications. While the Gambian constitution mandates free compulsory primary education, the current state of educational opportunities is so dismal for poor families that many will not go beyond primary school and will enter the work force without technical skills. Teachers are overworked. While some young people could develop small business enterprises related to tourism and woodcarving, the vast majority continue a downward spiral into poverty (McGrath & King, 1999).
Developing Countries, Gambia, Humans, Occupational Health, World Health, World Health Organization
Published Article/Book Citation
AAOHN journal, 53:2 (2005) pp.65-71.