Safe Workplace as Catalyst for Productivity

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The growing conversation around environmental sustainability has led to an increased consciousness among companies on the need to manage the earth’s resources and eco-systems in such a manner that they are able to conduct their businesses more efficiently. Raheem Akingbolu reports

The growing 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 overemphasised. 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.

According to Randy Wahl, senior vice president of M/A/R/C, a marketing research and consulting firm, “Cleanliness is an important component of the consumer experience.” Interestingly, some companies have entrenched the culture of safety and cleanliness in their work policies, integrating it into every facet of their operations.

This includes activities or procedures ranging from equipment and machinery maintenance, fire prevention, maintenance of light fixtures, spill control, storage and waste disposal, daily cleanup, evacuation of unused materials to inspection.

MAN’s reward scheme

This reason underscores the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN)’s promotion of best practices in the maintenance of clean and safe work environments among manufacturers in the country.

The ‘Best Kept Industrial Premises’ award, instituted by MAN, is open to manufacturing companies, including food and beverage manufacturers in the large, medium and small scale categories. Annually, the apex professional body of manufacturers conducts an assessment on the state of environment of members’ factories and work places and rewards those who adhere to strict standards. The award, which is in two stages, has the gold award, which is competed for quarterly by its regional offices, and the grand trophy, which is awarded annually.

It was not surprising, therefore, that at the 33rd Annual General Meeting of the MAN, Southwest, the association, in collaboration with the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and the Oyo State Ministry of Environment, chose the occasion to reward and recognize companies that have committed effort and resources towards ensuring high standards of health and safety at their workplaces. Trophies were awarded to companies in the large and small/medium scale categories for ‘Best Kept Industrial Premises, ’following the environmental assessment of factory premises conducted by the association’s environmental committee.

How the winners emerged

Leading tobacco manufacturer, the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), which was only making its first attempt in the competition, garnered a 92 per cent score to clinch the trophy for the gold award.
Nampak Cartons and Nigerian Breweries finished closely behind BATN with 89 per cent and 85 percent scores as first and second runners-up respectively. For the small/medium scale category, Boulus Food and Beverages, Frigoglass Manufacturing Industries Ltd and Vina International Ltd, came first, second and third respectively. However, special recognition was given to Oriental Foods Industry Ltd, Fan Milk Plc, Filade Marble Works and Altak Industry Ltd.

The event, which took place on August 24, 2016, had in attendance MAN President, Dr Frank Udemba Jacobs; Oyo State MAN chairman, Mr Kola Akosile; Oyo State Commissioner for Trade, industry, Investment and Cooperatives, Princess Taibat Adeyemi-Agaba, some industry executives and members of the association in the region. Representatives of industry regulatory bodies, such as the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), among other stakeholders e also witnessed the event, which took place at the Jogor Centre, Ring Road, Ibadan.

For BATN, the award serves as a deserved honour and recognition for a long-entrenched industry best practice, which forms part of its work policy.

Reaction

The Manager, Operations, Environment Health and Safety, British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN), West Africa Area, Mr. Jide King,who received the award on behalf of BATN, in a chat with THISDAY, said that BATN did not actually set out to win an award. He attributed the achievement to the company’s policy of entrenching best practices in environment and safety.

Describing the award as a milestone, King remarked: “This award is huge. It showcases what we do within our perimeters and validates how we do our business. It also tells a lot about our reputation in relation to our general stakeholders and particularly those who use our products; they will be sure that our products come from an environment that values quality as well as the environment it is produced.”

“As a multinational, it is the desire of the business to create a great place to work for its people, contractors and other stakeholders. So, it is a very deliberate policy of the company to focus on housekeeping, because there is a very close relationship between housekeeping and environment, health and safety. If you must have a healthy workforce, you must provide them with a great place to work- a place that is conducive and clean; a place that is free of anything that could cause them harm. Therefore, we have a deliberate policy as well as procedures and activities that ensure that we achieve that goal,” King added.

Wake-up call on government

The occasion was also used to remind manufacturers in the region of the need to brace up for the economic challenges plaguing the country and the present harsh business environment in which they operate. The President of MAN, Mr. Jacobs, in his address, lamented the fall in the price of crude oil and the attendant constriction of the national income, while calling for more attention to be given to the manufacturing sector.

“The manufacturing sector is beset with quite a number of challenges, hence we must think out of the box to see how we can remain in business in the face of these challenges. The sector is a key factor of the economic diversification agenda of the present administration and remains the most viable ally of government in this regard as it creates wealth and generates employment. Therefore, the time has come for us to reappraise the role of existing government policies with a view to fine-tuning them,” Jacobs said.

The guest lecturer, Professor Olajumoke Familoni, Founder/CEO, International Centre for Leadership and Entrepreneurship Development (ICLED), while delivering a lecture on the topic: ‘Fiscal policy thrust for inclusive growth in Nigeria manufacturing sector’ asked government to review its fiscal policy thrust. She also urged government not to shy away from pumping money into the economy in order not to strangulate the system and for the economy to thrive.

Describing the manufacturing sector as the lifeline of the nation’s economy, she said that government must reduce tax for the small and medium scale industry so that it can grow.
Speaking further, she advised that the nation must shift from import substitution to export-led industrialisation for the economy to be revamped.

As the federal government evolves policy measures to drive local production of goods in a bid to boost export and mitigate the forex crisis and economic hardship being experienced in the country lately, it is imperative to emphasise the unique relationship that exists between a safe and healthy workplace and productivity.

Therefore, manufacturing companies can contribute immensely to the nation’s economic rebirth by embracing and integrating health, safety and environment (HSE) practice of their workforce into productivity.