OSH Competencies to Perform the Role of an OSH Practitioner and Professional in Africa
In the following section, the focus will be on the core activity domains of an OSH practitioner and professional in Africa. For an overview of the required knowledge to carry out these activities see Table 7.1 at the end of this chapter.
Communication plays a significant part in routine OSH practice and constitutes an important competency domain. This is very relevant in the African context where literacy levels are low in countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Somalia, Chad, and Niger among many others (Post 2015). Generally, safety instructions, material safety data sheets, policies and procedures, and safety signs are predominantly presented in English, French, and other languages. Effective communication coordinates employees, fulfills employee needs, supports knowledge management, and improves decision-making. Soft skills such as communication skills are perceived as important basic skills in safety and health management. Good communication skills are necessary for effective appraisal of hazards and OSH requirements to workers (Blair 2004). The ability to communicate well and with clarity is a key attribute in creating awareness of workplace hazards as well as the general performance of one’s duties. At the workplace, good risk communication creates awareness of workplace risks and ensures that workers are aware of the necessary preventive strategies. Clear communication plays a vital role, especially in situations of low literacy levels and naivety in the field of OSH. Managers, supervisors, employees, and OSH practitioners must be good communicators both for instructional purposes and dissemination of safety and health information. Introduction of changes at the workplace requires good communication skills. Furthermore, it is recommended by ILO (2001) that OSHMS should have arrangements and procedures in place to ensure internal and external communication of OSH related issues.