ASSP President Speaks On Diverse Challenges In The Safety Industry
…..…reveals 2020 conference expectation
Ahead of its forthcoming conference themed; ‘Productivity and Profitability Matrices in HSE System, the President of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Nigeria, Nsikak Ekam in a chat with HSENations revealed major challenges the safety industry is combating with. He urged all stakeholders to endeavor to cooperate and quit politics in the HSE practice.
How has it been as the President of ASSP Nigeria?
It has been a new learning experience and expansion of my visibility within global Safety, Health, Environmental and Security space; and of course the knowledge has brought me closer to the average man.
As President of ASSP, Nigeria, truth is, It’s not easy on me psychologically visiting incident sites or victims. I am pained and grieved on why we can’t learn from past incidents or adhere to Safety instructions.
I have flashes whenever I hear of avoidable accidents and incidences. Today, many families are operating with very little free time, family resources stretched to the breaking point. A serious workplace injury or death changes lives forever – for families, friends, communities, and coworkers too. Human loss and suffering is immeasurable.
I look forward to a more proactive engagement with Nigerian and industry stakeholders.
Can you tell us your major challenge leading such association and how did you deal with it?
Funding of the association is a major challenge. You see individuals and co-operate organization register as members for initial certification for either job or bidding process. But thereafter you see them stay away from meetings and society activities.
Another challenge is involvement. I would like to see more Government and private sector investment in Health and Safety events, TV/Radio programs, and sponsorships of training and awareness initiatives.
What would you describe as the greatest threat to the progress of safety in Nigeria?
Nigerians perception of safety; Politics has been introduced into Safety. People expect that government should make them Safe but fail to understand that safety is our collective responsibility and safety starts with you as an individual. Nigerians need to learn from incident, respect safety rules and barriers.
Another threat is the fact that risk assessments of business are not conducted, they are not considered by business owners. We are in an environment where workers are not adequately or trained at all and then necessary safety equipment and signage not in place.
What have you been able to achieve within this short period as President of ASSP?
I have been involved in more awareness campaign; especially, safety and situational awareness on and off the job proactively through meetings, awareness jingles and social media for a safer Nigeria. We were also able to help small businesses grow by answering specific business challenges enquiries as pertaining to safety; also create employment opportunities and point public when approach to true competent Safety Professionals and Safety bodies.
Reactively, I have been able both on TV/Radio analyze and try to recommend best practices to Nigerians and the world on some of the incidents we have recorded in Nigeria e.g. Tanker fire incident from scooping of product from falling tankers, gas explosion, bush burning, flood etc.
As the President, I was also able to sustain eight ASSP section in Akwa-Ibom, Port Harcourt, Delta, Lagos, Edo, Kaduna and Abuja. Presently, two new student sections are in the making – University of Uyo and Heritage polytechnic Eket plus sustaining PTI student section among others.
Kindly tell us about your upcoming conference and what should people expect?
It’s an annual event known as Nigeria Professional Development Conference (PDC) 2020 preconference with the theme; “THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUMAN FACTORS and BEHAVIOUR-BASED SAFETY: Why you need both to achieve Safety and operational excellence”.
Truth be told, very few high-level safety professionals and senior leaders/managers really know the difference. On the other hand, if they do, they don’t know what to do first to maximize efficacy.
At our PDC 2020 in Abuja, we will provide a forum for occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals to take OSH into realms outside the boundaries of the organization and also Strengthen the skill set of SH&E professionals and emerging professionals; Data analysis to help show the value and need for safety Management; Engage in the discourse of identify emerging SH&E challenges; Identify key issues facing SH&E professionals; “Selling Safety” to both sides of Safety balance – The Business / Human etc.
This year, we will have two keynote speakers – Larry Wilson, a Safety Consultant and CEO of SafeStart International from Canada and Thomas Kramer Managing Principal LJB Inc. from USA who will give the keynote addresses at the event. Also, Diana Stegall, ASSP President is one of our global visitors that will be making a speech among others high level delegate.
We hope to make our entrepreneurs fully understand that “Productivity and Profitability go hand in hand with health and Safety”
What new thing are you bringing to the table at this conference that’s different from previous one?
At this conference we shall be giving special focus to workplace safety. A serious workplace injury or death changes lives forever.
Human loss and suffering is immeasurable. Every person who leaves for work in the morning should expect to return home at night in good health. Can you imagine the knock on the door to tell you your loved one will never be returning home? Or the phone-call to say he’s in the hospital and may never walk again? Ensuring that husbands return to their wives, wives to their husbands, parents to their children, and friends to their friends — that is the most important reason to create a safe and healthy work environment.
We hope at this conference like never before to sell to participants that Safety “start’s with you” (Them) and is our collective responsibility both individual, employer of labour, sole proprietor and Government.
If you are the Minister of Labour, what will be your first move as regard safety?
I will create safety commission in all states/local government in Nigeria. Work with Minister/Ministry of Education and introduce in our Nursery/Primary School “Safety and Situational awareness 101” – for our emerging youths/ leaders of tomorrow. Situational awareness is being aware of what is happening around you in terms of where you are, where you are supposed to be, and whether anyone or anything around you is a threat to your health and safety.
Nigeria today needs our emerging youth and leaders of tomorrow to be timely introduced to “Safety and Situational awareness”.
I will ensure I make factory inspectorate currently embedded in Ministry of Labour and Productivity to be a stand-alone commission or move it into Federal Safety commission tailored similar to UK Health and Safety Executives.
I will work with both federal and state government to ensure that each State/Federal Safety commission are provided grant from Government to run effectively.
I will also develop standards and procedures for Nigeria in areas that is lacking today and also enforce compliances to existing Safety standards.
I will also Implement Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) Act 2014.
What is ASSP core purpose in Nigeria?
ASSP Nigeria Chapter (ASSP NC) founded in June 23, 2007 at Orlando, Florida and a student section in April 22, 2010, is a voluntary, non-profit making HSE organization that strives to provide professional guidance, training, consultancy and resources to the industrial and social sectors in different geographical areas in Nigeria. ASSP NC is currently with membership strength of over 300 members and is committed to the professional development of its members.
In pursuance to its lofty goals and objectives, the society has been organizing HSE workshop, PDC, Technical paper presentation during chapter meetings, Seminars, and community outreach activities.
ASSP NC is sustaining safety awareness seminars, trainings, advocacy, site inspections, radio/television talk shows, disaster counseling, collaboration with other safety organizations, Agencies and Ministries.
Making Nigeria a safer and healthier place for all both on and off the job is our core purpose in the country.
With the recent chapter involvement in finding solutions to HSE local and global Challenges, the Chapter is on its way to becoming one of the most active HSE professional bodies in Nigeria and Africa.
Your advice for the health and safety industry?
Organizations should endeavour to employ or engage certified and competent safety professional as stipulated in our Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) Act 2014.
Avoid quacks and ensure that people who seek employment as safety professionals, have their background checked and certificates are verified.
Also, we need to ensure that safety professionals join professional associations, participates in Professional Development Conferences and their HSE certifications are current. HSE certification serves as our license as a Health and Safety professional.
Kindly tell us briefly about yourself and your journey into Health and Safety?
I have over twenty-five years of experience in health and Safety that cuts across Construction, Air-conditioning and refrigeration, Palm oil crushing plant, Soap manufacturing, Palm oil refinery, Road transportation and oil and gas sector.
I have been a Professional Member of American Society of Safety Professionals since 2001 – till date. I have been in leadership role since 2015. I have been a Safety motivator and mentor to emerging Safety Professional. I have been instrumental to many Professionals employed, training of upcoming Professional and financial support to various Safety groups. I have been a member of Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) since 2007 and became a Fellow in 2018. I am a Federal Road Safety Special Marshal.
I hold the following Safety certificates:
Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Certification; National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) Certificate; Risk Assessment and Management – Technical level; Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority certification; ISM Code (Maritime Auditing and Designated person Ashore (Certification) from Maritime Academy Castine, Maine, USA; Major Emergency Management Initial Response (MEMIR); OSRL UK Oil Spill Clearance Course On-Scene Commander (IMO Level 2) among others