Stakeholders decry poor OH services in Nigeria
The International Labour Organization, ILO, and the World Health Organization, WHO, estimate that about 1.2 million work-related deaths and 250 million accidents and 160 million work-related diseases occur annually and Nigeria contributes a great proportion.
It was no wonder that the problems of the access to occupational health services was a frontal issue at the 40th Annual General Meeting, AGM, of members of the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria, SOEHPON, in Lagos, where experts called on the Federal Government to provide policies and legislation to ensure compliance with occupational health services in the country.
Addressing the gathering, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, informed that only between 5 and 10 percent of Nigerian workers have access to occupational health services.
According to him, across Nigeria, thousands of workers in formal and informal sectors sustain severe injuries at work daily, lamenting that sometimes the injury may be minor or fatal with permanent consequences to the workers and their families.
Represented by the Medical Director, Federal Medical Centre Ebutte Metta, Dr Adedaramola Dada, the minister who said workers constitute over 49 percent of the population, said “there is also the need to develop work organizations and work cultures to support health and safety at work as this process will promote a positive social climate and enhance productivity in the workforce.”
He disclosed that the ministry has developed a National Strategic Framework on the implementation of occupational health and safety services in Nigeria where six former federal staff clinics in the six geopolitical zones of the Country have been designated to serve as “Model Occupational Health and Safety Centres.
The centers are located at Federal Secretariat buildings in Kano, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Jos, Maiduguri, and Medical compound, Yaba, Lagos. The Federal Ministry of Health has also concluded plans to build a “Model Occupational Health and Safety, OHS, Centre” in Abuja.
These centers will provide OHS Services to all workers. He said the centers when fully operational will support the collection and collation of OHS data on dead and injured workers in their workplaces, and will go a long way to contributing to the database on OHS in Nigeria. Adewole added that the Ministry has begun occupational Health and safety Risk assessment visits to workplaces nationwide.
Speaking, President of SOEHPON, Dr. Okon Akiba, stressed the need to have appropriate national and regional laws, policies, standards, guidelines, institutions, ministries, and agencies to drive occupational and health safety in the country. He explained that OHS best practice involves effective and efficient prevention of occupational injuries, diseases and work-related diseases by promoting and maintaining a healthy and safe workplace environment.
The President who noted that workers are the most important human resource recommended immediate empowerment of the inspectorate unit of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to carry out assigned functions and statutory roles. According to him, “There is need to promote visible and effective collaboration of ministries of labor and health in order to harness and drive national and regional occupational health regulation, ensure immediate ratifications and adoption of the reviewed national occupational health and safety and harmonization as well as the passage of the Bill into Act.”
Safe working environment
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, represented by the Controller, Ministry of Labour, Lagos, Mr. Nnamdi Enuah also noted that a healthy and safe working environment forms the basis for a more productive workforce and in turns generates sustainable development and successful business. Ngige noted that government is committed to the protection and wellbeing of the working population and pledges government determination to the improvement of workplace conditions and better employees’ health and wellbeing in all Nigerian workplaces.
He said: “The review process of all the extant laws including the factories Act remain ongoing process, and in line with the powers conferred on the Minister to issue regulations under the Factories Act, three new regulations were recently developed, – the Boiler and Pressure Vessel Regulations, the Diving at Work Regulations and the Lifting and Allied Work Equipment Regulations, to regulate activities in awareness creation and advocacy remain some of the adopted strategies in a bid towards ensuring safe and healthy workplaces in Nigeria.” On her part, Dr. Onyibe Rosemary who represented WHO Country Representative, Mr. Clement Lasuba, stressed the need for government to get involved in ensuring occupational safety with a view to reducing the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination among others by 2030 according to the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.
Source: Vanguard Newspaper