Mr. Adeyinka Adebiyi is a passionate safety advocate and Director at the Lagos State Safety Commission with core competence in safety skill development. In this interview with HSENations, he talks about the importance of Education – the first of the tripod of safety practice. He equally delves into the impact his seminal work, Essentials of Safety and Health, has had on improving public knowledge of safety in the state and Nigeria as a whole. He also highlights what HSE professionals must do to improve their rating in their workplaces. Excerpt…
For the benefit of our readers, sir, can we get to meet you?
Thank you very much. My name is Adeyinka Adebiyi. I am a technical educationalist. I attended University of Nigeria, Nsukka for a degree in vocational and technical education. Before then, I’d been a technical teacher, the Head of Department at Government Technical College, Ikorodu. I am a grassroots person. I attended technical college myself. After technical education, I went to college of education for a certificate in technical education and afterwards I won a scholarship to proceed for a 3-year course at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I joined Lagos State Safety Commission on January 23rd, 2013, as Director in charge of Safety Skill Development now Safety Training Education and Skills Development having spent 10-15 years in the mainstream of the public service of Lagos State. I have been advocating and sensitising the public on safety and part of my contribution to bring safety culture in the state is the book that I wrote which is Essentials of Safety and Health. The book essentially is for public safety. It dwells so much on home safety, road, inland, waterways and individual safety, pedestrians safety, school safety, fire management, fire prevention, introduction to first aid, Event Centre Safety. You’re all living witness to Covid-19.
You’ve been a passionate advocate for health and safety in the state and the country. What informed your passion?
I honestly do not know but I recall when I was in the university and we’re asked to look for a project topic and because as a teacher in technical college and a product of technical college myself, we dealt with machines, equipment and again the environment of technical college has to do with manipulative skills and all of that hence safety skills comes in. So when it was time to choose a topic for my project in the university my friend suggested, ‘Why not choose safety?’ I said, ‘fine; it’s a good one’. We had a 2-unit course Industrial Safety already and I think I got an A so that made me fall in love with safety and when I chose a project topic, it’s ‘Factors Affecting the Industrial Safety of Workers in the Manufacturing Industries’ and I got an A in the project. Ever since, the interest developed. More so I attended a program somewhere in Ikorodo, ‘Safety for teachers of technical colleges’. One of the facilitators now came to my class and said there’s a safety commissioner in Lagos State now and the head of the organization is a woman. I said fine. So I decided to go see the head of organization and I came and met her. She conducted the interview and there and then she saw my passion for safety and then she started working on how to get me into Lagos State Safety Commission. Then I was at LASU undergoing my Master’s degree in Public Administration to compliment my first degree. So that’s how we started and I have not stopped and I have been up and doing since then.
The title of your book is Essentials of Safety and Health. Why the topic and why did you decide to write a book?
I did not just decide to write a book, but I discovered that most books written on safety and health were foreign books. This didn’t mean that no expert could write books in Africa or Nigeria. All those books written by foreigners were not really domesticated to fit in into our own clime. I have not seen any textbook that would look at the topic safety entirely. Most of these books are particularly operationally safety and health so there is this dash in public safety books hence my passion to actually settle for public safety. That’s why I gave the book that name because it deals entirely with human living – either you’re a worker, seeking for employment, or jobless. All of these concern every living individual because it tàlks about the home. We’re aware that there are a lot of hazards in our homes, roads, waterways, then we now talk about events. So I had to put all of these together to make a book. That was what brought about the book because as an individual if you’re able to read this book the likelihood of getting injured or getting into an accident on the road, homes, waterways, events, is slim. The book is as a result of all my presentations since 2014 till date. That was what I packaged as a book.
What has been the impact of the book? How do you gauge its acceptance by the general public and within the state itself, you know being a civil servant?
The impact has been great in the sense that when the book was launched on the 28th of April 2021 – you recall every 28 of April is World day for Safety and Health – Mr Lanre Mojola, our able Director-General and Chief Executive Officer, Lagos State Safety Commission, gave approval that half of the books should be taken by the commission and of course when there are guests, they give to them and they’ve acknowledged the importance of the book. Some institutions have also bought – Lagos State Library, Ministry of Education. I went to represent my DG at a state government program organized by a ministry and I gave a copy to the honorable Commissioner and he said he’s buying for all the churches and mosques. People now write topics on safety using this as a reference also. I’ve seen a presentation by a safety expert and I was quoted by her which shows the extend this book has gone and the publisher of this book is a foremost publishing company, University Press Plc.
Could you highlight some topics in this book?
I would say it’s a living book in the sense that everything that has to do with human existence and living are the topics there.
One, home safety. I talked about the home environment itself. How do you ensure that everything in your home and environment are hazard-free? Apart from that, roads and inland waterways transportation. Do you check your car very well before leaving each day? How do you ensure that you’re the only good driver on the road? Look at the inland waterways. Are they wearing their life jackets and are all belts well used? Are you boarding the boat at night were the captain can’t not even see? How good are our waterways? Overloading, overspeeding. Then we talked about fire prevention and management. Even in workplaces, at home, do you conduct risk assessment? You’re not supposed to store petroleum products at home. We talked about event center safety. Then talked about introduction to first aid.
What do you expect to see happening in our society as a result of this book? And what is the next project for you?
This book is for public safety and all households of course. I’ve also begun another one. I don’t know whether to call it occupational safety because the word ‘occupation’ is very common to most textbooks you see, but I talk my own workplace safety and health and that’s going to be another work entirely. I just completed chapter one. I expect that all households should buy this book and also it should be adopted by all schools in Nigeria – universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, secondary schools. In fact, it’s not out of place if there’s a curriculum on safety in our schools. From there we catch them young. It’s not about money but inculcating the culture of safety in our society and this book has given us that opportunity, this book gives you a different perspective about the way you use and handle things.
How will you describe safety awareness among our people in Lagos state and Nigeria as a whole because you know we have recent issues that has to do with public safety and people getting injured and attacked?
Several statistics on safety awareness comparing Lagos state with other states shows Lagos is number and has more than 70 percent awareness on safety and health. I would also say Lagos is number one and this is not because I work for the state government. I recall when I got to safety commission. We went round all the local governments in Lagos state for awareness walk, safety sensitization in the area of public safety. We have gone to commission and train staff in workplaces in Lagos state on best practice, on safety culture in workplaces, in ensuring that hazards are removed from process.
Safety to me stands on a tripod – or triangle; a triangle has three sides – education, engineering, and enforcement. Inside the triangle, you have standard, so education includes training, sensitization, advocacy. Engineering includes conducting safety audits in industries, ensuring they observe safety practices. Having done all of these and people still do not adhere to safety standard, that’s where enforcement comes in. Enforcement is not the first. It comes last. That is where you’ve observed you’ve done education, engineering and people still are not complying. That’s where enforcement comes in. Lagos State Safety Commission being the first in Nigeria and in sub-Saharan Africa has done so much to ensure that people in Lagos are taught about safety culture and follow it and that is what we do from time to time. Lagos State Safety Commission inspects workplaces and points out where there are infractions and ask them to remove the infraction(s) and makes sure they are removed. Safety does not go on holiday; it’s a 24hour thing. Once it does, then the entire society is finished.
What is your final word for the safety profession? Is there any issues you feel that should be addressed within the safety industry?
Well thank God for the establishment of Lagos State Safety Commission and thank God that the Institution of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) has been chartered in Nigeria and thank God also for the number citizen of Lagos state because he values life. During the peak of Covid-19, Lagos State Safety Commission was and still is the frontrunner to ensure that there’s drastic reduction to people contacting Covid-19. Safety commission has done a lot in ensuring that all workplaces, offices, event centers follow safety protocol on Covid-19. It also ensures that work processes follow due process devoid of accident, injury and fatalities.
For the safety professionals in Nigeria, work can’t stop. they must be up and doing because they are the only people that will ensure that the rate of accidents, fatalities, are reduced in our society especially our workplaces. There shouldn’t be armchair safety professionals any longer where they would sit in the office why people are working at height without proper use of PPE. Every safety professional especially those who are working in the factory or industry must ensure that they go all out from time to time to inspect those who refuse to comply with safety standards and they must also write report. It’s very important. If a safety professional is moving round the industry and sees a worker standing on a ladder without PPE, they should ask the person to come down and do the needful. Then write it down in the report, HR in workplaces don’t value safety professionals because they don’t write reports and hence they think they’re not doing anything. Even water spill on the floor is a report. Write your report! With that, they will know you’re doing your work. They must ensure they write report for whatever incident they see and that means they’re doing their work. It’s very important.