Health and Safety is only visible in the formal sector- NISCN President
Workplace accident is of concern to any serious minded individual particular with the alarming statistic of the international labour organization in this regard on reported cases globally.
Dr. Festus Daniel, the President of The National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN), a tripartite Occupational Safety and Health organization in Nigeria consisting of Government, Employers and Workers Representatives with branches spread across the 36 states of the Federation lend his voice on issues bothering on safety advocacy and what they are doing to improve the situation.
Can you tell us briefly about yourself?
I am Dr. Festus C Daniel, with a background in Economics, Education, Corporate and Public administration. The CEO of ETPM ENERGY NIGERIA LTD. Haven worked with pharmaceutical company, oil and gas, telecom and engineering services company. The experience I have gained in the industry poised me to accept the leadership of the Council with great enthusiasm and passion to move the council forward. I have also acquired a lot of health and safety knowledge experience from Singapore during my years of working with the Singaporean company. I am very optimistic that we will realize the mandate of the council.
How well is NISCN doing in area of advocacy for a safer workplace?
Since we took over the mantle of leadership we set out with strategies to reach out to all Nigerians. We began by supporting the government in the successful launching of National Policy on Occupational Health and Safety. Then we reached out to various ministries, departments and agencies for nominees into the council which they did, even State government sent their nominees as well. We decided to establish the council in states where it did not exist. With this structure we have been able to reach out to Nigerians. One of the laudable ways, we reached out to Nigerians was during the world day for safety. We marked the day across the country with workplace safety messages that reach most workers. We have established our website and using social outlets to convey the council’s messages and making it easy for Nigerians to key in through registrations and consultations.
How can you rate the safety consciousness in Nigerian workplaces and what do you see as the key challenges and how can it be addressed?
The safety consciousness of employers and employees is very low in the informal sector across the country. In the oil and gas sector where health and safety practice is a strong condition for contracts award and employment it is very high. We actually need the federal ministry of work to do more in enforcement. The Council and indeed NECA will be happy to partner with them in this area. Factory inspectors need to be trained and empowered to enforce health and safety regulations. The national policy on OSH needs to be enforced. The council has members who are from the oil and gas sector to provide factory inspectors with the trainings to do their jobs.
Do you have any plans to integrate Safety knowledge across board like it’s obtain in the oil and gas sector?
Like I mentioned earlier this is our focus. NISCN is for all Nigerians. The council cannot sit and watch the slaughter that is going on in the informal sector. We will bring the knowledge of hazards identification, risk assessment and controls that will eradicate accidents in the informal sector. It is going to be through training, advocacy, workshops, and consultancy. I must let you know that the council is not for enforcement. We will make people realize and believe that health and safety practice is key to profitable business and embrace it willfully.
In your opinion, can you give a percentage to the rate of workplace accidents in Nigeria?
Accident rate is very high in the informal sector. Health and Safety management focus has been visible in the formal sector, especially in the oil and gas sector. The council is shifting focus to the informal sector, particularly in the area of transportation, small and medium businesses, and market places. This is not to say that we will abandoned the formal sector. We will sustain the standard we have set and improve on it.
You have a course program starting this Wednesday, 11th to Thursday 12th of August in collaboration with the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. Can you shed more light on its importance and benefits to participants?
NECA has great influence on employers of labour. If employers believe in health and safety management, accident will be greatly reduced among their workers and their businesses will strive. The greatest benefit is to bring companies to the realization that health and safety practice will actually save their businesses more than anything else and reduce cost of running business. Nobody budget for accident. Lack of workplace safety is the single most important reason why businesses fail. The partnership with NECA and Ministry of Labour will bring solution to wreckages we see on our roads, businesses collapse, workplace injuries and deaths.