The leadership of small scale mining industry operators have been urged to introduce measures that would compel that sector workers to comply with the wearing of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
That would be a guarantee for the workers’ health and safety by protecting them from health threatening conditions at the working sites.
Dr Jackson Adiyiah Nyantakyi, the Ahafo Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the advice at a day’s sensitization programme on environmental and health implications of galamsey (illegal mining) for leaders of the small scale mining operators as part of the regional activities to mark this year’s World Environment Day celebration at Goaso, Asunafo North Municipality of Ahafo Region.
The 50 participants were drawn from the Asutifi North and Asutifi South Districts.
Dr Nyantakyi said toxic chemicals, particularly the use of mercury in gold processing at galamsey (illegal mining) sites were very dangerous to human health and the environment.
He said such activities involved the use of mercury amalgamation and gold recovery, which had environmental and health ramifications.
Hence, the operators needed education to become aware of the dangers on their health and the environment to come up with possible preventive measures, Dr Nyantakyi emphasised.
He admitted, though small scale mining could not be under-estimated for its contribution to the growth of the country’s economy through employment creation for the youth, there was also the need for it to be regulated to reduce the health and environmental hazards posed to the workers and the general public.
Dr Nyantakyi stated mercury could easily be absorbed into the human blood stream through the skin, the lungs, and the digestive system if not well-protected at, particularly the galamsey sites.
He cited mercury poisoning could cause mental disability, swelling of the hands, feet, toes, fingers, peeling of the skin, stomach upset, kidney failure, numbness, and skin rashes of not only workers but people living in the surrounding areas.
Dr Nyantakyi, therefore, stressed the need for the enforcement of the use of PPE such as nose mask, goggles, ear plugs, wellington boots and hand groves to protect workers, and proposed award should be giving to those workers who complied with the rules of PPE to encourage other workers to use it appropriately.
Dr Nyantakyi again suggested environmental awareness programmes should be introduced in schools to sensitize the children at the early stages on environmental protection.
Mr Collins Osei Bonsu, the Ahafo Regional Director of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) advised the participants to constantly go for regular health and medical cheek-ups to be screened for early detection of diseases and treatment.