Republic v. Jackson [1982-83] GLR 86.

REPUBLIC v. JACKSON [1982-83] GLR 86



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Quashie-Sam J.A. The respondent, R. W. Jackson, Area Manager of Tractor and Equipment, U.A.C., Kumasi, was charged with failure to report an accident which occurred at the workshop on or about 29 May 1979 contrary to sections 10(1) (b) and 63 of the Factories, Offices and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328). Section 10(1) (b) of the Act reads:

“10. (1) Where an accident in any factory, office or shop—

(b)  disables any such person for more than three days from earning full wages at work at which he was employed, the occupier shall forthwith send written notice of the accident, in the prescribed form and containing the prescribed particulars, to the Chief Inspector or the Inspector for the district.”

The punishment for defaulting is contained in section 63 of the Act which makes provisions for a fine not exceeding N¢100 or imprisonment not exceeding one month or both such fine and imprisonment.

At the District Court, Grade 1, Kumasi, the respondent pleaded not guilty to the charge. Opening the case for the prosecution, the facts, as the prosecution alleged, were that failure of factories to report accidents led to a circular being sent out by the Factory Inspectorate to all occupiers warning against contravention of section 10(b) of Act 328. In spite of that it was alleged the respondent failed to report an accident which injured Wundua Mingire, a caterpillar mechanic at his workshop, disabling him from his normal work for more than three days. Investigations revealed that the respondent had reported the accident to the District Labour Officer, Kumasi, pursuant to the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1963 (Act 174), but not as required under Act 328, hence the charge.

At the hearing counsel for the respondent raised a preliminary point of law which he centered on the interpretation of the offending

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section under which the respondent had been charged, arguing that on a proper interpretation of the section, the respondent was bound to make a report to the inspectorate only where the injured person was disabled from earning full wages for more than three days, and that where the injured person received his full monthly wages, such as in the present case, there was no offence committed if no report was made and therefore the respondent should not have been charged. This submission was rejected by the lower court on stated grounds in its ruling, and hearing proceeded.

The prosecution called two witnesses: Peter Kwaku Moses, a district labour officer, testified that he received from the respondent on 11 June 1979 a report of the accident which was made to him in accordance with Act 174 under which he dealt with the report and closed the case. This Act, he said, is different from the Factories, Offices and Shops Act, 1970 (Act 328), under which the respondent had been charged; but to a question by the court he said, “I do act as a conduit pipe for the inspectorate”; whatever this means was not explained to the court, in the face of his evidence that the two Acts are different from each other. Wundua Mingire, the victim of the accident, gave evidence that the accident which injured him was on 29 May 1979. He was treated and discharged and given sick leave. He was away for about three weeks and reported back at work on 22 June, 1979. He received his full salary from April to July, 1979. In other words, he received full salary for the three weeks he was not at work. The prosecution closed its case.

The defence offered no evidence but made a submission of no case warranting the respondent to be called upon. In so doing, counsel reiterated his earlier legal submissions; counsel made the further submission that in this case, the respondent reported the accident to the labour officer through whom the factory inspector gets the information. The trial magistrate accepted these submissions and ruled, discharging and acquitting the respondent.

It is against this ruling that the prosecution has appealed on the only ground that the acquittal was unreasonable, having regard to the evidence on record. In this court, as in the lower court, the arguments have centered around the construction or interpretation of section 10(1) (b) of Act 328. Looking at the subsection, I am of the opinion that the phrase “at work at which he was employed” has a very strong operative import, considering the intent of the legislature as a whole and as revealed in the preamble of the Act. In my view, an occupier, within the meaning of the Act, is bound forthwith to report, in a prescribed form, any accident that occurs in his factory, office or shop to the chief inspector or the inspector for the district, where such

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accident causes the death of an employee, or where it disables an employee for more than three days from earning his full wages at work, and it is apparent that the emphasis is on the phrase at work. In the instant case, the evidence shows that the employee, the second prosecution witness, was injured and disabled for more than three days; to be precise 21 days; he received full wages during that period when he was absent from work, but he cannot be said to have earned those wages “at work” within the meaning of section 10(1) (b) of Act 328.

With respect to counsel for the respondent, I do not subscribe to the view that the primary aim of section 10 of the Act is to enable the inspector to know if an injured employee is being paid only a percentage of his full wages and not his full wages, and that where a disabled injured employee receives his full wages while not at work at which he was employed, the occupier can elect to omit to render the report contemplated under the Act. Let me repeat therefore that every occupier within the meaning of the Act is in duty bound to report any accident to the inspector upon the conditions mentioned in section 10 of the Act which I have endeavoured to analyse.

In our present case though the defence offered no evidence at the trial, there was an admission on the proceedings on the part of the respondent that he did not make a report to the Inspector under the Act. However, a prosecution witness i.e., the labour officer to whom the respondent had made a report under a different statute, the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1963 (Act 174), gave evidence on the issue and compromised with the respondent that in his capacity as a district labour officer he acted as a conduit pipe for the inspectorate.

In this exercise I have already referred to the labour officer’s evidence in some detail together with my observations, and I am of the opinion that his evidence as it stood would not justify the respondent being called upon. In the absence of any other evidence, no court of justice would convict on the labour officer’s evidence, which, at the close of the case of the prosecution itself, raised a doubt in their own case. This is an appellate court and it will not go beyond the record of proceedings before it. It is upon this aspect of the trial that I would dismiss this appeal and not the projected interpretation put upon section 10(1) (b) of the Act by counsel for the respondent.

The appeal is therefore dismissed.

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