The belief that adherence to environmental standards set by regulatory bodies is key to success is driving local and multinational companies to be more concerned about safety and environmental sustainability.
The work environment, according to several research reports, has implications for employee health and productivity. Thus, the significance of implementing workplace health and safety measures cannot be over-emphasised.
For example, a safe and clean work space contributes to decline in sick leave requests by workers. Also, it can be a critical factor in determining where a consumer shops.
Expert said putting in place a dynamic occupational safety tools boosts productivity of the workforce, as employee safety should be paramount regardless of position or qualification.
Executive Director, National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP), Eric Gislason, said: “You have to show value that the safety of your employees is of utmost importance not only for ethical reasons but for your return on investments.
“You do better as a company when you keep your employees safe, there is proven documentation that shows that a safe workplace will give better productivity, better employee, increased morale, better quality and that is what we need to implement worldwide.”
Speaking on safety in the workplaces, Gislason said while the workplaces have quite an impressive level of occupational safety methods, more can be done to become more advanced, especially in policy reformation, adding that safety reforms are not just a Nigerian problem, but also prevalent in the United States.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called on the National Assembly to initiate a new Occupational Safety Health Bill to ensure the safety and health of the workforce.
According to NLC President Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the law has become imperative to protect workers in case of injury or sickness that might arise in the course of their employment.
He said previous attempts to pass a similar bill into law had failed.
He stressed that all over the world, construction companies had the highest accident rates in the workplaces and those workers suffer greatly in the sector.
He said: “Nigeria is even worst and I know that a lot of complaints come to the NLC through the National Union of Engineering, Construction and Woodworkers’ Union and we have always taken up their complaints.
“We also receive serious complaints from the chemical union and most of the time we settle out of court by ensuring that the company involved pays compensation to the workers concerned or to their families in case of death.
“Sometimes when we go to court, it takes a number of years and the worker may even die before the compensation gets to him.
“That is why we prefer to settle out of court and get compensation for the worker.
“So, I think that the first thing to be done in Nigeria is to have a standard law to regulate occupational safety health in the country.”
He said Nigeria was still operating on the revised edition of the 1960 law on the issue, adding that it was important for the country to follow the best practices in line with the provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) constitution as it affects occupational safety and health.
Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Register Limited, Kwode Festus, said: “We have an objective to ensure that every Nigerian understands his right in terms of safety in the workplace.
What we are looking at is occupational health and safety, which is very important, the country does not have the necessary regulations to support safety in the workplace.”
Proffering solutions to improving occupational safety in the country at the end of a five-day safety-training programme in Lagos, he stressed the need to establish a national framework and regulatory policy for workplaces, which should be strictly adhered to.
He said: “We need to have the peer review with other countries on safety and also attend conferences because without the knowledge, we cannot do anything.”
Speaking on the training, Kwode, who has been certified by the NASP abroad, said he decided to replicate the knowledge and certificate locally for other professionals and companies to benefit from in partnership with the international organisation.
He said presently Swiss Registers is the only West African partner of the NASP.
He said besides becoming certified safety managers, the participants after the training can also facilitate training for other people at a lower cost, which he said, presently costs $2,900.
Kwode said the aim is to incorporate the training into academic institutions, and reduce the fee to a more affordable amount for individuals.
This, he said, can be achieved by working with necessary regulatory bodies and organisations.
He added that the training is not just for factory workers, but also for those in corporate environment. He added that the training, which is a total of five days, had 20 participants from various companies and industries working with 32 modules after which they will be examined on.
President, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), Andrew Sharman, said to sustain growth, productivity and profitability, investors and business owners worldwide needed to look after people at work and their work environment.
Speaking at the maiden edition of the West African Health Conference themed ‘Shaping the Future of Occupational Safety and Health in West Africa’, hosted by the IOSH, Sharman said:“Healthy environment will drive growth and build investors’ confidence, and will also boost productivity. IOSH supports the development of strong workplace safety culture promoted by businesses and government agencies.”
Sharman said as part of its advocacy for improved workplace safety and employee health, the IOSH, a chartered body for health and safety professionals, was launching a campaign that had: ‘No Time to Lose’ as theme, in Nigeria. It is targeted at tackling cancer diseases caused by work-related activities.
A statement on the campaign said exposure at work to carcinogenic substances was one of the biggest causes of avoidable cancer in adults.
“Over 46,000 people die each year in Africa as a result of their occupational exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos and diesel engine exhaust emissions,” the statement read.
Director, Occupational Health, Ministry of Health, Lagos State Layemi-Adeyemo Kuburat, in her address, commended the IOSH for promotion and maintenance of a healthy working population through the advocacy of a safe workplace environment and safety standards.
She said a lot of people shied away from reporting work-related accidents or illnesses, leading to the under-reporting of such occurrences and causing dilemma in keeping records and proffering solutions.
She said statistics revealed that 160 million people had work-related disease leading to reduced productivity in organisations, many of which could be prevented.
“Furthermore, the average cost of populated injuries and Nigerians with ill-health is 4.3 per cent, which is definitely underreported,” she said.
She called for appropriate reporting and investigation of workplace incidents while urging companies and agencies to have a comprehensive work plan and clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
Chief Executive Officer, IOSH, Bev Messinger, said in her address that good health would improve productivity and increase organisational success.
Messinger said achieving a safe workplace in all organisations was possible, adding that accidents, hazards, and ill health were preventable in organisations.
“Good health of employees and a safe environment is an investment for any organisation and not a cost as its returns are always visible in its revenue,” she said.
She further said the activities of the IOSH was in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and called for improved collaboration among personnel, agencies, organisations and the government to ensure the availability of a safe workplace where healthy employees would effectively and efficiently carry out their duties.
Head of strategic engagement, IOSH, Alan Stevens said it was necessary for all stakeholders to collaborate and foster a safe environment where healthy employees would be fully productive in their various activities
“For a productive business that will lead to a growing economy, everyone must be healthy and the environment as well must be safe,” Stevens said.