The World day for safety and health at work will be marked on 28th April, 2019. This day is set aside to create awareness on occupational safety and health at all levels globally, and to promote a culture of prevention and decent work. The theme crafted for the day by International Labour Organization (ILO) is ‘Safety and Health and the Future of Work’.
Our world in the last one hundred years has witnessed several efforts coordinated to improve occupational safety and health. In the early years, several incidents with high fatality rates were recorded. The era where workers and others were not sure of returning home from work. Working was risky and no formal interest or approach or regulation was in place to address occupational safety and health risk by organizations. Workers were on their own.
With emergence of crude oil, industrialization and boom in many economies in mid-fifties and above, the key asset of an organization – the employees –continued to encounter occupational safety and health risk. The number of injuries recorded was marginally high. Incidents such as Flixborough, United Kingdom (1774), Seveso, Italy (1976), Arco, Bhopal Incident, India (1984), Piper Alpha (1988), Channelview, Texas(1991),and Buncefield Oil storage depot explosion(2005) Macondo-Offshore (2010), etc were recorded. Lives and other assets were lost.
Reactive era sets in this period. An era based on reaction to incidents caused by process failure, human errors, design failure, poor communication and supervision, faulty and unmaintained equipment, poor record keeping and document maintenance, and lack of review mechanism among others. ‘Happen’ and ‘fix’ mentalities ensue.
As regulations increased in the last one decade, and the demand by stakeholders for a safe work place, and protection of workers from work related ill health and injuries, including the consequence of legal liabilities, organizations now have new focus and approach to addressing occupational safety and health in a work place . This new philosophy, preventive in nature- is process based and considers competence of the work force, risk assessment and ensures health, safety and environmental standard practices are integrated into the business management system of the organization. Attention is also paid to the value of certification. The organizations often use one or more occupational health and safety management standards and concepts.
Over 80% of organizations globally who consider deeply the impact of occupational safety and health (OH&S) risk on their businesses if it crystalizes often use ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard to manage occupational health and safety risk, to improve occupational health and safety performance, and meet compliance obligations.
The future of work will be driven by technology, innovation, creativity, decent work, demographics, information, sustainable development goals and some other elements. However, the newly released ISO 45001:2018 occupational health and safety management system standard will help organizations to birth frameworks, structures and designs that will address emerging OH & S risk associated the future of work.
Implementing the ISO 45001 Standard holistically with good culture –proactive and generative – and with deep management commitment will also help the future of work.
Moreover, occupational health and safety of workers and others who can be affected by the activities of an organization is the responsibility of that organization.
In the same vein, it is the responsibility of a nation to protect her people, ensure provision of safe and healthy work places and environment, prevent work related injuries and ill health in line with the sustainable development goal 8 which advocates the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full of productive employment and decent work for all.
According to ILO, every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases – more than 2.3 million deaths per year. 317 million accidents occur on the job annually; many of these resulting in extended absences from work. The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product each year.
A fraction of the above data is observed in Nigeria. However, there is no national database on work related injuries, ill health, incidents, accidents and fatalities. This may be a starting point for the biggest African country. Nigeria needs to adopt a national policy on occupational safety and health and disseminate this policy to all stakeholders.