Mrs. Antonia Beri
As the campaign for business owners to give priority to issues related to safety continues, the Lead Consultant of the Safety Consultants & Solution Providers Limited, Mrs. Antonia Beri, spoke to Raheem Akingbolu on the low patronage of safety solutions in some sectors as a result of ignorance. Excerpts:
How can you describe the attitude of Nigerian business owners to safety precaution?
To properly address this, I think one needs to segment the market for understanding. The educated consumer of safety is those in the multinationals and those who are exposed to the western culture. Unfortunately, the larger population believes that safety is for the rich which make it difficult. Thirdly, the population does not see safety provided by the government as a right, which it should be.
Your safety is your right and same from that position, you become a more demanding people and we have more enforcement. But sincerely speaking, some business owners seem not to know that with good safety culture in place, their staff members will work with enthusiasm, they will be more productive and this will also trigger sales and grow the Return on Investment (RoI).
You are one of the people penciled down for the oncoming conference on safety and exhibition in Abuja, what exactly is the trust of the conference and who and who are being expected?
It is a well structured conference, targeted at the players in the Nigerian Oil and Gas community. It is going to be a two-day event that would parade many resourceful professionals on various issues. I will be talking on the topic ‘Nigeria: A Systemic Approach to Managing Fire Safety on Offshore Installations’. Like I said, it is for the people in the oil and Gas, which made it industry-based.
Can you please share what would be your area of focus in the discussion?
I will talk on safety solutions, especially as it relates to the sector. We will be incorporating a holistic approach to safety and inspire safety management culture. Though currently, we have a lot of people who are familiar with what safety is all about but we are going to look at it from an integrated perspective. My contribution at the conference will move from the development, philosophy, concept, design, construction, implementation to the actual management of the system.
Let me take you back a little, did you say safety, which is everybody’s right, is for the rich?
No, that was not what I said, I said a large number of members of public see it as something meant only for the rich. Safety is everybody’s responsibility. It caters for everybody. It might not be the Managing Director that is offshore when something happens, it might be a common employee. Therefore, it should be in the interest of all.
Having spent some years on the job, can you please, based on your experience, itemise some of the impacts of your solutions?
The impact of our product and services are for everyone. Like I said earlier, the positive theme is for all. It should not be for a privileged few. What we do as a company can be divided into three arms. The first one is occupational safety hazard, which includes development of the philosophy of the manuals and the implementation. This extends to environmental services which will affect the working environment and of course the community.
After this, we can now come out with other things, which include policies and processes that would bring about safety and human capacity development of the staff. The second arm is the fire engineering arm, which means you do a risk assessment, look at what you need and you built fire safety system that would work in the event. The last one is the technical safety service, which is more an engineering-based discipline. We do safety reviews for the manufacturing and the oil and gas sector, evaluating their design and in detailed design to ensure that safety has been incorporated and built into the design.
How can you describe the attitude of government to promotion of safety culture?
The government does try but there are many challenges to its effort. People are not conscious of safety and what safety is. Let me give an example in terms of environmental safety. When you look at the beautification taking place in Lagos state; making it green, you will agree with me that it’s a great effort by the Lagos State Government. Making the environment safer and neater for us to stay is something the state government powered.
The mindset of our people is important to enable the government implement the plan they have in the safety area. Yes, the government might need to do more and definitely need to do more in terms of compliance, enforcement and making it mandatory to and for all organisations. But the mindset of the people as well should be guided and oriented towards safety through sensitisation.
Are there any challenges the safety industry is facing?
The challenges are the mindsets. People don’t see the value. We are very religious people and gladly so. But we tend to use the aspect of religion for excuses and lack of wisdom and diligence which should not be use. And that hinder us a lot in safety. We justify a lot of our inefficiencies on religious basis.
Five years after the establishment of Safety Consultants & Solution Providers Limited, what is the experience like?
Let me state that it has been smooth because of the strong foundation laid by my father, Mr. Aigbogun. It is a licensed and certified partner of Naffco UAE, Control Fire Canada, Fire and Security SA and Tyco Safety Products (UK) specialising in provision of Life and Fire Safety Services. Our offering includes: Life & Fire Safety Systems Design, Implementation & Maintenance and Technical / Process Safety Consultancy Services.
Again from the beginning, our vision, among others, has been to ensure consistency in our customer satisfaction efforts. In view of this, we are very painstaking in employing competent and reliable staff members. Our engineers and consultants are trained and certified by standard associations like ABS, NFPA etc and by OEMs like Tyco Safety Product International (UK) and NAFFCO. We strive to ensure that all our clients are satisfied with the service we render to them. This has remained our major strength since we started.
You are in an industry where many would have expected only men, don’t you feel intimidated?
To me, I think my being a woman in a male-dominated industry has offered some great things. Though it comes with its challenges but it has given me opportunity to work hard and be a good role model to younger women. But on a lighter mood, considering my status as a woman, I may not be free to follow up a business discussion from office to any restaurant or club, either elitist in composition or whichever name.
Another thing is that I believe in myself. Again, it is an advantage because I can go home and see my children after a daily routine. Seriously speaking, it becomes an asset to see a woman especially during presentation when there are more men.