This Special Publication presents information on the activities on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in the sugar industry in Kenya, developed by the IUF Global Sugar Program and the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation Workers (KUSPW) in the context of the IUF Sugar Project in East and Southern Africa running from October 2007 to September 2012.
Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is one crucial area of trade union work encompassing several and complex aspects, among them: It’s a workers’ right to work in a safe environment, free from hazards and conducive to increasing productivity. Then, building a safer workplace is an ongoing task requiring the participation of management and employees, in a bipartite model based on knowledge and effective actions to eliminate hazards and/or reduce risks. From a societal viewpoint, any program of national development requires a labour force that is educated, motivated, and healthy.
The OHS work with KUSPW was approached from a “political angle,” highlighting the ways in which an enterprise is run, where both management and employees have to be involved in deciding the use the company’s resources when improving health safety conditions for everyone in the workplace. This allowed the project’s activities to be organically integrated into the union’s organising and mobilising actions, and contributed to the empowerment of the union branches and workers at grass-root level, as they became more proficient on OHS matters vis-à-vis management representatives.
Also important was consolidating the perspective on how hazards have to be dealt with in the workplace. The IUF Sugar workshops stressed that the approach is to try and eliminate hazards first, which contrasts with a common approach that the first action to take is to protect the individual worker, hence the conundrum of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). On the other hand, such perspective contributes to build an unassuming way to face challenges, because there’s always room to improve as no situation is completely risk-free.
The OHS activities developed under the IUF Sugar project, reported KUSPW in April 2012, were directly related to the union affiliating some 520 new members, and to its active presence in five new sugar companies. Tangible results were achieved in several areas, ranging from new structures built in factories to an increased union membership to an improved participation of workers in the Joint Safety Committees substantiating the positive impact of the IUF Sugar project on the work of KUSPW.
The document is divided in four sections. Section I describes the way the project was implemented with KUPSW, its challenges and achievements. Section II includes four testimonials from participants in OHS workshops, and Section III contains the reports on the activities that were posted on the IUF Sugar site (www.iuf.org/sugarworkers/). In Section IV, there is a summary of an evaluation of the project by KUSPW, which was presented to the Regional Evaluation Meeting on the IUF Sugar project in Africa, held from 18-20 April 2012 in Durban, South Africa.