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Taking proactive approach through health, safety initiatives

INVESTMENT in the health and safety of workers produces desirable business results for long term sustenance of any business venture.
That is why key players such as the Workers Compensation Fund Control Board (WCFCB), mine safety and the directorate of safety in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security need to work together to create safe work environments for workers so that incidences of accidents and diseases at work places can be reduced or even eliminated.
As a key player in the health and safety of our workers, WCFCB has on its part, been implementing a number of programmes around the country to assist employers reduce incidences of accidents and diseases.
This is the information we shared with Luanshya Copper Mines during our visit to sensitise mine houses on operational matters. It appeared to us in that meeting, that employers are unaware of free health and safety services that WCFCB provides.
What we think, however, is that employers may only know WCFCB for traditional monthly compensation benefits, and they are right except only to a certain extent.
Readers may note that though the principal objective of WCFCB is to compensate workers, this is a reactive panacea to the perennial problem of injuries and diseases at work.
For the benefit of first time readers, WCFCB is a statutory board established under the Workers’ Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999 (the Act) to compensate workers or their dependents for occupational related disabilities,  diseases and deaths and administer a fund from which compensation and operational expenses are defrayed.
However, to reaffirm WCFCB’s commitment towards caring for workers and their families, reference is made to Section 11 Subsection 3 a, b and c of the Workers’ Compensation Act No. 10 of 1999.  In these sections, the Act mandates WCFCB to among other things:
• Play a pivotal role in the prevention of accidents or of any disease which are due to the nature of any occupation
• The promotion of the health or safety of workers and
• The provision of facilities designed to assist injured or afflicted workers to return to work or to reduce or remove any handicap resulting from injuries or disease.
The first two initiatives are proactive strategies to help prevent accidents and disease as well as promoting the well-being of the worker. The last initiative is a reactive strategy meant to mitigate the effects of an accident or disease.
The impact of accidents on the workforce and productivity are well known. These are:
• Reduced competitiveness
• High worker absenteeism
• Increased time spent on accident investigations
• Increased medical costs etc.
In responding to a worker eccentric approach, WCFCB has embarked on an aggressive rehabilitation and return to work (RTW) programme. The concept of this approach is to try and return the injured worker to work as early as possible.
Injured workers are being trained in alternative skills to help them get reintegrated in gainful and sustainable employment. RTW programmes take the following forms:
• Return to original work after rehabilitation
• Return to a different job after attaining an alternative skill
• Return to the same job but modified to suit worker capability
The importance of reintegration in employment whether in the previous or different job, cannot be over-emphasised. Reintegration brings with it restored self-esteem to the injured worker as well as economic security to families of the affected workers and the community at large.
It goes without saying that most injured workers are highly skilled. By helping the worker return to work, we are also stirring national development as most skills are still scarce on the labour market. This approach also helps in an effective skills transfer process.
We bring this information out to aid understanding on the critical role that WCFCB plays in accident and disease management at the place of work.
Whereas it has been held long that compensation means monetary packages awarded to workers in the event of loss of earning capacities, a lot has changed over the years and accident prevention is shaping the agenda of compensation systems the world over.
Recent initiatives in advanced countries are suggesting returning of workers to employment after they have suffered injuries and diseases in the course employment.
The author is corporate affairs and customer services manager
Workers’ Compensation Fund Control Board Emai: