Occupational Health & Safety Act

Sep 20, 2010

occupational health & safety act

The Influence of Global Safety and Emergency Management Practices on the Economic Development of Kenya


As the world becomes more connected with the rise of the age of internet technology, it is inevitable to ignore global influences in the workplace. Global economies, practices, and cultures all play a role in the business we conduct.  It is not uncommon to work in an industry where you will have to collaborate with those from outside your country of residence, and in many times, with countries or people who may not have the same language, ethnic background, religious beliefs, traditions, socio-cultural exposure, workplace practices and level of technological advancement.  Regardless of their level of advancement, there will be differences in that must be taken into consideration.

This paper discusses workplace practices, specifically in the fields of engineering and safety, and proposes a four-phased emergency management program for Kenya. These practices are then compared to that of the United States.  Safety advancements that could have positive impact on the Kenyan economy are also discussed in this paper. These include the influence of the United States and technological advancements in other countries, challenges with implementing safety practices, and the existing government policies in Kenya.  Conclusively, this paper hopes to shed light on the heightened influence of global economies, the current level of advancement in technological practices in Kenya, and what can be done to further develop these technological practices which highly effect economic advancement.

Geography and Climate of Kenya

Kenya is located in sub-Saharan East Africa, with Nairobi as its capital city. Stretching along the Indian Ocean on its southeast side, Kenya lies on the equator.  Kenya is bordered by the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania.  Lake Victoria is located to the southwest of Kenya.  Kenya is home to numerous wildlife reserves, residence to thousands of animal species.  Kenya has a population of 39 million and a land mass of approximately 580,000 square km, making it the 47th largest country in the world.  Religious denominations are 60.8% Christian, 32.8% Muslim, and 4.6% Traditional/Indigenous African believers.  The second highest mountain peak in Africa, Mount Kenya, is Kenya’s significant landmark and for what the country was named after.

Low plains rise from the coast on the Indian Ocean to the central highlands. The highlands are intersected by a plateau in the east known as the Great Rift Valley. The Kenyan Highlands make up one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa.  The highlands are also the highest point in Kenya, with Mount Kenya reaching 5,200 m or 17,000 ft, making it site to glaciers (Fitzpatrick, 2006). The climate varies greatly from tropical conditions along the coastline, to arid conditions in the center of the country.  Hot and humid characteristics can be noticed at the coast, while inland is very dry in the north and northeast.  High amounts of rainfall occur between March and May, and moderate rainfall occurs during October and November.  Overall temperatures remain high throughout the year, receiving a large amount of sunshine. The hottest period is from February to March and coldest temperatures occur during July to August (Fitzpatrick, 2006).

Overview of Kenyan Politics

Kenya’s form of government is democratic, with an elected President and the Parliament members. The Judicial system and Electoral Commission have appointed positions as well.  Kenya gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963. Mwai Kibaki is the current and 3rd president of Kenya.  He ran for the office of president two times on the Democratic Party ticket without a victory.  In 1998, the Democratic Party became the Official Opposition Party.  Kibaki was elected President in December of 2002 as a member of the Official Opposition Party.  He was then re-elected in 2007. Kenya is still undergoing its transition to a free democracy, consequently from the remaining influences of the previous Colonial period leading up to their independence.

There is still a great deal of corruption in the system.  For example, the president has the supreme authority, meaning he has the power to dissolve the parliament, to appoint High Court Judges and Electoral Commissioners, and to control the federal budget.  The former President from 1978 until 2002, Arap Moi, created ongoing ethnic rift within the country, by aggravating ethnic scars and differences. Moi appeared to have thought that as long as the people are fighting each other, they will not be able to fight their rulers.  The major clash was between two of the main ethnic groups, the Kalenjins and Kikuyus.

According to the United States Central Intelligence Agency – CIA report on Kenya (2009), the major ethnic groups in Kenya by population include: Kikuyu (22%), Luhya (14%), Luo (13%), Kalenjin (12%), Kamba (11%), Kisii (6%), Meru (6%), other African (15%), non-African – Asian, European, and Arab (1%).The Kikuyus were major players in the Opposition Party at the time and Moi was from the Kalenjin group.  Moi manipulated tension between the two groups over certain controversial pieces of land.  These tensions were broadcast at the time as purely ethnic struggles, however were realistically forms of corruption.  In studies done after Kibaki was elected, claims of devout ethnicity were insecure.

About 70% of the people showed loyalty to their country, not exclusively their tribe, showing an instigation of tension.  Another event of corruption surfaced during the last election.  The process and the proceedings of the election of December 27, 2007 were peaceful but there were some underlying issues that went unnoticed.  Kibaki had a very close competitor in the race for re-election, Raila Odigna, and won by a percentage of 47% to 43%.  This caused Odigna to call for a recount and sparked many outbreaks of violence as rumors of counting fraud spread.  Violence broke out and police and other government officials were assaulted by angry mobs.  Kibaki had also previously made a power-sharing deal with the defeated runner-up, Odigna, but later retracted it.  This caused increased tension in the country between the supporters of both parties which still continue presently

Kenyan Economy

Kenya has a market-based economy with some state owned infrastructure. The economy is heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture and tourism, rendering it vulnerable to variations in weather and volume of tourists.  The economy has picked up in recent years in terms of growth rate, after a decade of consistently decreasing growth rates.  However, a rise in population in interceding years has increased the number of poor in the country.  Very corrupt bureaucracy and government ranks amongst the 12th most corrupt in the world.  The AIDS Disease is also a major factor in impeding the progress of the economy (CYEC Kenya, 2009).

Services, mainly tourism, account for more than 60% of the GDP, while agriculture accounts for 15% of the total GDP.  Principal Cash crops are tea, horticultural produce, and coffee, which garner the highest export revenue.  Agriculture provides the livelihood for 75% of the population but contributes to only 15% of the GDP.  This is a symptom of the high income inequality prevalent in Kenya.  The mining industry contributes less than 1% of the total GDP. This is because Kenya has very poor mineral deposits.  Manufacturing accounts for only 14% of the GDP despite Kenya being the most industrialized East African country.

Insufficient energy reserves and transportation infrastructure are the main constraints of the country.  The United Kingdom and the United States are two of the biggest investors in Kenya’s industries.  Most industries in Kenya manufacture food products.  Hydroelectric power meets most of Kenya’s electricity requirements however due to the high possibility of drought; this source of power is not dependable.  Although drilling prospects are currently being carried out by China, crude oil is still yet to be discovered in commercial sizes along the coastal regions, and oil imports account for 25% of Kenya’s import bill (CYEC Kenya, 2009).

Workplace Safety Practices

Kenya is currently still considered a third world country and with that, many levels of technology and safety precautions are not yet to be put in place. Unlike Kenya, the President of the United States signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 1970 and 1971, respectively. While OSHA was established within the Department of Labor (DOL) and authorized to regulate health and safety conditions for all employers with few exceptions, NIOSH was established for the investigation of hazardous work conditions, to conduct research to prevent injury, to train safety and health professionals, and to develop educational materials and with recommendations for worker protection (DOL Website).

In Kenya, lack of government funds and corruption of the governmental system has impeded the development of an effective safety and health regulating administration. Several efforts have been made in the past to advance the Kenyan economy by industrialization, use of power tools, and learning of new technologies applicable to the lack of resources present. In many cases, outside funds and projects have brought new building ideas such as high tunnels, water catchment systems, biodiesel production, and anaerobic digesters. Unfortunately, there are no safety requirements or procedures being followed.  With the use of sharp bladed saws, knives, and machetes, lack of precaution for use and storage many times results in severe accidents.  Carpentry and Welding are also common, especially for teenage boys to practice the skill of.  These Carpentry and Welding shops very rarely enforce the use or even have the option for use of eye protective equipment, gloves, hats, or protective shoes, if any shoes are worn at all.

Kenya has come a long way in its governmental development with the placement and expansion of governmental ministries and regulatory organizations. These ministries include areas designated to industrialization, labor, medical services, Public Health and sanitation, roads, and trade.  Each of the ministries is designated to ordinance in its specific area, falling under a sector of public administration.  The ministries add a certain structure to the loosely enforced government.  Citizens can get in touch with these sectors of government if they need reference on a certain area of legislation referring to a work project or other interest.

Comparison of Kenyan Safety Policies to the United States

The main difference between the United States and Kenya (in terms of safety and health policies) is that the United States has a strong governmental system with sufficient technology and funds to invest in safety precautions within the workforce. This level of technology and capital is just not available in a country like Kenya that has battled political unrest, corruption, and severe poverty for hundreds of years.  The United States has powerful enforcement from OSHA, NIOSH, and several other associations that educate and provide a guided regulatory system for work sites to follow.  Is it possible for Kenya to ever have something that parallels this system? Kenya’s governmental upheaval and lack of funds make this a reach for future times but with continual outside reinforcement of knowledge, technology, and funds, it could be a possibility much sooner than initial anticipated.

Influences of the United States’ and other countries technologies

Many countries have left a footprint in the structure of industrialization, medical services, public health, roads, and trade within Kenya.  Each region or country of the world has seemed to influence one sector of the economy in Kenya in one way or another. The United States has had a large impact on engineering advancement, medical services, and public health.  There are many organizations within the United States that help on a large part to create resources for Kenyan citizens in regards to healthy and sustainable living conditions, and access to new technologies applicable to East Africa.  Organizations such as USAID, Peace Corps, and Engineers without Borders, are all thoroughly invested in creating health awareness.  These organizations raise enlighten and educate Kenyans on the consequences of the infection of HIV, and provide training on how to build a sustainable resource among the Kenyan villagers.

The Asian culture has also had a large impact on Kenyan development.  Many building frames and especially road ways in Kenya have had a strong influence from Asian countries.  Primarily, the Chinese have played a huge role on the progress of the roadways in Kenya.  With lack of formation or use of concrete, Kenya’s road systems make for unusually dangerous and lengthy travel.  The China Road and Bridge Corporation, CRBC, is a large-scale, foreign trade and economic cooperation enterprise focusing on the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels and ports as well as other transportation.

In the past few decades, they have undertaken more than 600 engineering and labor projects in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  One of CRBC’s main projects in Kenya was the initial construction of Kenya National Highway which was one of the first modern day road systems to be established in Kenya (China Road and Bridge Corporation, 2008).  The Kenya National Highways Authority, KeNHA, has recently planned to engineer an elaborate road system spanning out from the central location of Nairobi into a plethora of nearby smaller cities.  According to the KeNHA, this road licensing has all been given to the Chinese.  The process of collaboration between China and Kenya on this road system has begun and is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2011 (KeNHA Projects, 2010).

The United Kingdom has had the largest influence on business structure and trade in Kenya.  Britain has sent government ministries and people from the leading United Kingdom businesses to Kenya for extended periods of time.  While visiting, they conduct visits with governmental leaders of Kenya.  They also incorporate time to meet with smaller agencies and personal owned businesses within Nairobi and in the outskirts of the city.  This in turn helps the people of Kenya learn more about advanced business practices and trade.  In many instances, trading on a large scale and exporting in Kenya has been greatly influenced from Europe.

Challenges with implementing safety standards and government regulations

The political unrest and corruption make it difficult to establish a solid governmental system in Kenya.  This therefore results in making it near to impossible to successfully create and maintain regulatory standards within the country.  However, with the current presidential position being held by Mwai Kibaki, implementation of standards and regulations aimed at improving workplace safety in Kenya might be possible.  In Kibaki’s term as president, he has already abolished primary education school fees, which resulted in an increase of 1.7 million in enrolment rate.

Kibaki has been described by many as gentlemanly and non-confrontational and at one time was rated by Time magazine as one of the top 100 people in the world who had the potential to lead.  Kibaki has also proven to have a loyal group of aides, mostly from the Kikuyu and Meru tribes, who helped with government affairs during Kibaki’s term of ill health. According  to the Center for International Disaster Information, in 2005, Kibaki subsequently fired and replaced his entire cabinet, saying that “….it has become necessary for me, as the President of the Republic, to re-organise my Government to make it more cohesive and better able to serve the people of Kenya.”

With this group of individuals making the calls on governmental policies, it is now a near possibility to implement safety standards and regulations.  However, the main factor is still the enforcement of these standards.  Many citizens of Kenya are still not fond of Kibaki because of the recent close election that was highly disputed and also because of the separation between the Kikuyus and other tribes. This separation between the citizens will make it very hard to follow any regulation put in place.  This is due to the fact that the citizens, who may not be fond of Kibaki, will not want to follow these regulations even if they are proven to prevent accidents.  Also, most of Kenya is of rural structure so there is not enough staff to inspect work areas to reinforce regulations.

Safety Standards Development and Emergency Management

One of the major factors that could impede the implementation of effective safety standards in Kenya is the issue of adequate emergency management. Kenya does not seem to have any existing plan for emergency situations. The United States has an Emergency Management system, which is the process of preparing for, mitigating, responding to, and recovering from an emergency.  A sufficient level of preparedness is sought after by planning and taking actions before a possible or probable natural or man-made disaster.  A plan for after disaster reconstruction, food storage, sanitation equipment storage, and conducting drills are all part of the Emergency Management system (Oyewole, 2010). To make this applicable in Kenya would not be too time intensive.  Kenya’s main natural or man-made disasters would most commonly be considered severe drought and excessive rainfall, which cause a major damper on living conditions in Kenya when they occur.

Other natural disasters, such as tropical storms, occur greatly along the coast and inland at times.  Man-made disasters are also a common existence with civil war, rioting, and outside conflicts such as terroristic attacks.  These situations would easily fit into the mold of the process of preparing, mitigating, responding, and recovering.  If a village had the knowledge of this process, it would help them to be more prepared for an unavoidable disaster.  It would also better prepare them for how to handle the situation, and how to recover back to initial conditions after the event of a disaster has occurred.

The Four Phases of Emergency Management

There are four common phases of emergency management. This includes prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.  Prevention is the on-going activity of reduction to risk of health, life, property, and the environment from hazards.  The goal of prevention is to identify and minimize risks to protect against a disaster.  Prevention involves making sure that an emergency situation can be properly handled, with efforts aimed at having the resource to operate during an emergency, and having the proper system available to continue operations.

Preparedness goes along with prevention in that it develops activities, programs, and systems prior to a disaster or emergency which are used to support and enhance prevention, response, and recovery.  Preparedness is achieved by having an emergency management plan, continuity of operations plan, or disaster response plan. Response is the phase that addresses the immediate and short-term effects of the disaster or emergency.  Once a disaster occurs, the ability to respond efficiently and effectively is of the utmost importance.  This part of the four-phase system must answer the question of what must be done to ensure a quick and efficient response. Recovery is the motion of rebuilding after a disaster. The time period for recovery can take several months or up to several years depending upon the severity of the disaster. Recovery costs may also be high, which could slow down the recovery time as well.  A business recovery plan must be put in place to document a method of recovery after an emergency is an important part to having a shorter recovery period (Oyewole, 2010).

Application of the Four Phases of Emergency Management to Kenya

The four phases of emergency management used in the United States can be an efficient way to begin creating safety standards in Kenya. In the first phase, prevention can be applied in accordance to identifying and minimizing risks.  Villagers should be aware of any resources that could be used during an emergency.  For example, in preparation for a long drought, food drying or storage of portioned goods could be kept as a food source. Preparedness creates activities and programs to support and enhance prevention.   Each village in Kenya should be given a briefing or pamphlet explaining how to handle a specific emergency.  Engaging in community activities would ultimately provide an efficient way to enlighten the local population and increase community interactions and awareness. This would help the townspeople learn to work together by creating a practice scenario situation.

Response is the ability to respond swiftly, efficiently and effectively to a disaster after it occurs.  If a village in Kenya is given the previous resources for preparation, they should be able to act quickly and in the right manner towards a specific disaster.  Response is of the utmost importance in sight of an emergency and it is therefore critical for villages in Kenya to have the background of knowledge on how to react. Recovery is the action of rebuilding after a disaster has occurred.  With possible high levels of recovery costs, Kenya’s recovery time would be much slower than the United States because of their lack of in-country capital and resources.  However, a business recovery plan documenting a method of recovery after an emergency is an important step that a community or even the government could create to have a plan of action to follow when a certain event occurs.

Application of the Four Phases to Work Place Safety in Kenya

Although the four phases of emergency management are meant for large scale, major disasters, this same process could be developed for small scale work operations.  For small businesses, construction sites, and medical facilities, it would be applicable to incorporate prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.  Safety prevention would be the main characteristic under the first phase, followed by preparedness for safety hazards found in the work place.  Response would refer to how to respond to an incident on the job.  For instance, first aid use or fire extinguishers for certain circumstances.  Recovery would be the way the business, work location, or medical center fixes the work environment after the incident.  This could be done with compensation of some sort or by implementing new safety standards or offering courses on safety.


Kenya is on the right track towards economic development, technologic advancement, and increased safety awareness.  This could be slowed down with unfavorable events such as political unrest, corruption, and fraud acting as barriers towards the ultimate goal of being an economically sustainable society. Other barriers such as lack of capital and communication between rural areas are factors that can be more easily overcome.  Kenya has many outside resources from powerful countries throughout the world such as the United States, China, and the United Kingdom which if properly tapped into, would be of immense benefits to the people of Kenya.

With outside influences and access to these countries intellectual resources, lack of capital can slowly be diminished with projects such as sustainable engineering plans that generate income for villages.  The spread of ideas throughout rural areas in Kenya is also an easy feat to overcome, especially with the advancement of road systems in progress of establishment by China.  Kenya has much potential to grow into an economically flourishing country.  With the current hands of the government in Kibaki and the support of many developed countries, there is definite hope for growth in terms of economy and safety administration. That growth will eventually lead to the establishment of safety practices and government enforced regulations that will truly play a major part in the advancement of Kenya into a modern day society.



Central Intelligence Agency (2009). “Kenya”. The World Factbook.

Center for International Disaster Information.

China Road and Bridge Corporation (2008).

CYEC Kenya (2009). Penn State University.

Fitzpatrick, M., Parkinson, T., & N. Ray (2006). East Africa. Lonely Planet. KeNHA Projects (2010). Kenya National Highways Authority. Source: http://www.kenha.co.ke/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34&Itemid=43&showall=1#

Oyewole, S. A. (2010). Emergency Preparedness and Global Health. Safety Engineering Lecture Series, Presented at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

The United States Department of Labor (USDOL), Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Source: http://www.dol.gov/Compliance/Guide/Osha.Htm

About the Author

Dr. Samuel A. Oyewole is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health and Safety Engineering in the Dept. of Energy and Mineral Engineering, Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Samuel Oyewole obtained his Ph.D. in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He has over a decade of industrial and research experience, with published papers in several professional conferences and research journals. Dr. Oyewole is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and the Human Factors Engineering Society (HFES).


Monica Virga is an undergraduate student in the department of Energy and Mineral Engineering at the Pennsylvania State university, University Park, PA.


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