Occupational health

Country and Regional Issues

Using health impact assessment to integrate occupational health and safety considerations into oil and gas sector development planning - case example from Ghana

Michaela Pfeiffer, Technical Officer, Interventions for Healthy Environments, WHO (pfeifferm@who.int) Dr Edith Clarke, Programme Manager, Occupational Environmental Health Department, Ghana Health Service, (essieclarke@yahoo.com) Francesca Viliani, WHO Technical Consultant, Health Impact Assessment, (Vilianif@who.int)

Commercially viable quantities of oil and gas were discovered in Ghana in the Jubilee Field in 2007. This discovery triggered significant international interest in the development of Ghana's hydro-carbon resources and petroleum industry, including in both upstream and downstream oil and gas production activities. Ghana has plans to become a regional hub for the refining and processing of petroleum products.

This OHSR change applies to all workplaces in the province. This includes medical offices, clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and patients’ homes where medical practitioners treat or care for a person. There are two instances where conventional needles can still be used for medical procedures: when a safety-engineered needle is not commercially available to replace the conventional needle and no alternative system, such as a patch or jet injector, is available to eliminate the use of the needle; or when the use of a safety-engineered needle or needleless device is not clinically appropriate because either the medical practitioner or patient would be at increased risk of injury. This determination can be made by edu¬cated, trained, and experienced persons, such as medical practitioners, who are knowledgeable about the work and hazards involved and the means to control these hazards. The use of safety-engineered needles or needleless devices may require modification of a medical procedure. This alone does not necessarily mean that the use of the required device, needle, or sharp compromises patient care or safety, or worker safety.

A number of occupational health and safety (OHS) issues have been identified in relation to the proposed oil and gas development plans, and include for example:

  • lack of familiarity with the range of occupational health and safety issues associated with both upstream and downstream petroleum sector activities;
  • lack of availability of public occupational health services, in particular for the rapidly developing associated service sectors (supply chain) and possible informal sector activities emerging in response to the growth of the petroleum industry;
  • absence of enforcement capacity at district level to advise and monitor comprehensive OHS activities at district level (environmental health officers who are mainly operational at this level, do not have comprehensive training in OHS)
  • Gabriel J. Reducing needlestick and sharps injuries among healthcare workers. Nursing Standard. 2009;23(22):41.

Key elements of this sector-based health management system include a baseline assessment of existing worker and community health issues, needs assessment and action plan to support the development of core health systems capacities (e.g. for chemical incident response), and a monitoring and reporting system.

This sector-based health management system, will not only provide relevant government authorities (health, environment, labour, and local government among others ) with a more holistic overview of occupational and community health and safety issues to be addressed as part of the growth of Ghana's petroleum industry; it will also allow for the monitoring and evaluation of the net social benefits (measured in terms of health gains generated for the Ghanaians) associated with investments in this sector.