The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and various safety entities have urged concerted efforts to advance the cause of secure and healthy workplaces, aiming to mitigate the risks of accidents and prevent millions of annual fatalities. This plea was articulated during the fifth edition of the Africa Safety Awards for Excellence (AfriSAFE)/2023 Congress, held in Lagos over the weekend under the theme ‘Collaborating for a Safer and Sustainable Africa.’
Vanessa Phala, the ILO Director for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, emphasized the importance of developing strategies to avert fatal hazards in workplaces. According to recent statistics from the ILO and the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately three million deaths occur annually due to industrial accidents and occupational illnesses, with an additional 360 million individuals experiencing work-related non-fatal accidents.
In her presentation titled ‘Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) as a Fundamental Human Right: Steering Collaborations in Africa,’ Phala highlighted incidents such as the collapse of multi-story buildings in Nigeria and a tragic elevator accident at a Lagos hospital, emphasizing their profound impact on the lives of workers. Beyond the human toll, she underscored the incalculable loss of working days, constituting nearly four percent of the world’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and inflicting significant economic consequences.
Identifying critical gaps contributing to industrial accidents in West and Central African countries, Phala pointed to the absence of national standards, a shortage of specialized human resources, insufficient workers’ education on OSH, and deficient OSH labor inspection. She further noted challenges such as inadequate social protection systems, limited financial resources, low literacy rates among workers, and a lack of public awareness.
Oswald Magwenzi, Chief Executive Officer of Zambia Sugar, echoed these concerns in his keynote address, urging African leadership to prioritize safe workplaces and communities. He called on governments and businesses to invest in workplace safety and allocate resources to address safety priorities.
Nthabiseng Mmusi, President of AfriSAFE, emphasized the organization’s commitment to fostering a safer and more sustainable Africa. She highlighted the resonance of the event’s theme with the shared dedication to safeguarding lives, preserving the environment, and contributing to the overall well-being of the continent.