After 30 years of working for the Ministry of Labor, Philip H. Davis had a firm understanding of the problems employees faced in the workplace. After retiring from the Ministry, Mr. Davis contacted two of his friends, Wanyi Harrison and Jacob Nagbe, and shared his vision to create a culture of workplace safety in Liberia. In 2011, the three established the West African Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (WAIOHS) as an NGO.
While looking for potential partners, the founders came across the website for the Building Markets’ USAID Sustainable Marketplace Initiative-Liberia. Though the three were already knowledgeable about many aspects of occupational health and safety, they sent another employee to Building Markets’ Occupational Safety, Health and Hazards (OSH) course. This initiated a mutually beneficial relationship between WAIOHS and Building Markets.
In addition to receiving training, WAIOHS is working with Building Markets to share its particular expertise and build the capacity of Liberian businesses. The organization is one of the local experts supporting the Building Markets Champions program and will be checking the code sheets of participating businesses to ensure they are compliant with OSH standards. In addition, they will be speaking with the Champions business about the importance of workplace safety.
“We know that we are in total partnership with Building Markets…and we are working together to build capacity,” says Mr. Harrison.
Awareness is essential to creating safe workplaces and WAIOHS offers training courses and workshops to educate employers and employees. WAIOHS also works with the Ministries of Labor, Health and Education and the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out workplace inspections and collect data on the causes of workplace hazards. With this information, the organization produces recommendations to mitigate safety hazards, especially in the manufacturing, agriculture, transport and education sectors.
“If people are protected, injuries are minimized and lives are saved,” says Mr. Harrison. The organization emphasizes that safe workplaces create win-win situations for all involved and are necessary to attract investors to Liberia.
Currently, the organization is focused on growing its network and working with various government agencies to bolster the implementation of safety guidelines. It would also like to partner with private sector actors to train individuals within companies to oversee workplace safety.
WAIOHS is also looking for funding sources because they would like to provide materials along with their training and workshops. They have only won small contracts for providing training but expect to win bigger ones in the future, as they have been in contact with large private sector actors.
In May, WAIOHS presented Building Markets with a certificate of honor for its contributions in the area of capacity building.
“We are the living witnesses of the work you are doing,” says Mr. Harrison.
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