Today is The World Day for Safety and Health at Work. It is an annual international campaign held every 28th of April to promote safe, healthy and decent work. It has been observed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since 2003. According to ILO, today 865,000 people will either die or be injured doing their job.
The theme this year is “Join in building a culture of prevention on Occupational Safety and Health”. This is self explanatory as it is obviously saying that everyone including the government, employers and employees must all join hands to ensure safe and healthy working conditions and environments. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
For this to work, there has to be defined rights, responsibilities and duties with priority given to the principles of prevention. I have previously written on the responsibilities of employers and employees when it comes to safety. Knowing your rights and responsibilities and carrying out your duties sincerely is the first step to prevention.
My focus today is not on employers and employees but rather on the government. In developing countries like Nigeria, health and safety often takes a back seat or is even non-existent especially in most government and corporate organisations. The truth is if the government is doing nothing about health and safety and is seen not to care about safety matters then the citizens will follow suit which is what I have observed. I have on several occasions mentioned safety training to friends that work in banks and telecoms but they laugh it off and tell me not to bother. Infact I have been advised to change my line of work as many cannot just understand why health and safety is very important and is certainly not welcome.
To start with, Nigeria does not have relevant Health and Safety regulations and legislation. There is the Nigeria’s Factory Act of 1987 and the cap 126 in 1990 which is obviously out of date and refers to factories alone but ideally this should go way beyond just factories. Information on health and safety in Nigeria is hard to find on the internet. Unlike the UK’s HSE website that is filled with surplus information and help, Nigeria doesn’t have anything like this (at least to the best of my knowledge). There needs to be a massive change, hence why I started this blog 🙂
To solve our problem in Nigeria, the government needs to appoint safety professionals and experts to identify key challenges and strategically plan to address these challenges. From my observation, I believe there are 2 main challenges (I call them underlying challenges) we face in Nigeria and they need to be dealt with in order to deal with other challenges.
1. Lack of health and safety policies and regulations. We need to identity and implementation health and safety rules especially in local organisations, SMEs, Schools and Universities in order to put in place effective and efficient risk prevention strategies. As mentioned earlier, it is mostly the multinationals and oil and gas companies in Nigeria that have a functional Health and Safety system. The government should look into getting all organisations in Nigeria involved in Health and Safety. However, I have noticed businesses have a tough time meeting their legal requirements especially taxes so the government should make sure implementing a health and safety system is not expensive or impossible no matter how small the business is. Health and safety should not be for the rich only.
2. Lack of monitoring and statistical tools. Accidents, deaths and work-related diseases is a common occurrence in workplaces but lack of data and record-keeping makes it difficult to ascertain how bad it is in Nigeria. As a country, we need to improve the prevention of accidents and work-related diseases by recognising the risks present and identifying ways of tackling all new, emerging and existing risks. There needs to be monitoring tools and improved statistical data collection so that evidence of risks, accidents and work-related diseases can be readily available.
Starting with these two challenges can help deal with the issue of prevention and help the government approach health and safety in a sensible manner.
If the government fails in their duties, we as individuals need to do our bit. Always remember that the change you need starts with you. I am working on an initiative – something really interesting and will be posting some details soon, so please watch this space. Till then, stay safe and remember health and safety is a combined effort and responsibility and it starts you and me.