Saturday comment1

The country should pay more attention to safety issues, writes Tayo Ogunbiyi

Safety has always been a vital issue across many societies. Globally, there is increased pressure for organizations, homes and public institutions to operate safely and move towards zero harm. Best practices have used programmes such as behaviour-based safety to produce significant improvements.

Public safety is concerned with hazards in the home, in travel and recreation, and in other situations that do not fall within the scope of occupational safety. Safety practices are the activities and measures that seek to reduce perilous conditions that can cause bodily injury or/and death.

Despite being a country where essential and accurate statistics are hard to come by, one cannot but notice the countless numbers of untimely but avoidable deaths and bodily injuries that had plagued our society over the years.

It will be sadly recalled that over 100 people were killed in an inferno that rocked a factory in Odogunyan, Ikorodu in 2003. The report of a panel of inquiry that investigated the incident concluded that the disaster could have been avoided if the management of the company involved had adhered to laid down industrial safety rules and regulations.

International Labour Organization, (ILO) estimates that 337 million workplace accidents and 2.3 million deaths occur every year, averaging 6,300 deaths per day, across the globe, including Nigeria. An average of 200 cases of industrial accidents occurs in Nigeria daily with an equally high rate of fatalities. According to experts, at least 50 million Nigerians are at risk of occupational hazards. This group includes about 3.2 million, children inclusive, who are involved in economic activities, even as abused participants in the labour market.

Nigeria is ranked 191 out of 192 countries in the world with un-safe roads and with 162 deaths per 100,000 from road traffic accidents. A World Health Organization (WHO) data reveals that over 1.3 million people are killed annually in road accidents while over 50 million people sustain different degrees of injuries from such crashes. Ironically, in Nigeria, people pay limited attention to safety matters.

Okada riders defy the rule to wear crash helmets while fire suppression equipment, where available, are either obsolete or unserviceable. Banks across the country install metal detecting cubicles at their entrances without adequate provision for alternative fire exit in case of emergency. Fire exits in most public and commercial buildings have been converted to storage rooms. Rather than pass through pedestrians bridges across our highways, people prefer to take the dangerous route of crossing through the road, even at times with children.

Nowadays, the issue of safety and health at workplace which once occupy a major place in the programme and plan of employers is no longer accorded prominence. Within the context of Nigeria organizational plan, the issues of safety are now considered non-essential in operational plans because it is viewed as consequential to profit margin and thus overhead cost resulting from provisions for safety is grossly cut down.

Sadly, the cost of hazardous practices is clearly huge, excruciating and heartbreaking. Accidents result in pains and deaths to victims, waste of time, money and materials and damage to equipment and structures. The sight of seeing people lose loved ones in needless circumstances is, to say the least, quite agonizing.

Thus, it is really essential that we embrace a culture of averting accidents by all means. The socio-economic impact of accidents is incalculable. For instance, the huge resources being channeled to the health sector at all levels might amount to nothing if people are involved in needless health hazards that put pressure on health facilities as a result of avoidable emergencies.

Any society that is built on sharp disregard for safety practices might have to contend with needless pains from time to time. Therefore, the earlier we opt to embrace simple safety culture, the better for us all. For instance, on our roads, people drive with uttermost disrespect for traffic rules. Always ignored, however, is the fact that failure to obey simple traffic rules and regulations often lead to traffic chaos that gives room for social miscreants to rob motorists of valuable items and vandalism of cars. And in most cases, when culprits are apprehended, they sometimes resort to anti-social antics.

If we are to fulfil our potential as a nation, we have to collectively review our attitude to the sanctity of human life. We have to change our value system. To begin with, those who willingly circumvent vital safety laws should be brought to book by the spirit of the law. What it takes for evil to gain a stronghold in any society is for evil to continually go unpunished. This is the only way we can move forward as a people. The human life is too precious to be wasted through careless human conducts.

Ogunbiyi is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja