Health and safety experts have urged all business organisations and government agencies to actively encourage safe environment and healthy employees in order to boost productivity and the gross domestic product (GDP).
Andrew Sharman, president, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said in Lagos that to sustain growth, productivity and profitability, investors and business owners worldwide needed to look after people at work and their work environment.
“Healthy environment will drive growth and build investors’ confidence, and will also boost productivity. IOSH supports the development of strong workplace safety culture promoted by businesses and government agencies,” Sharman said at the maiden edition of the West African Health Conference themed ‘Shaping the Future of Occupational Safety and Health in West Africa’, hosted by the IOSH.
Sharman said as part of its advocacy for improved workplace safety and employee health, the IOSH, a chartered body for health and safety professionals, was launching a campaign themed ‘No Time to Lose’ in Nigeria targeted at tackling cancer diseases caused by work-related activities.
A statement on the campaign said exposure at work to carcinogenic substances was one of the biggest causes of avoidable cancer in adults.
“Over 46,000 people die each year in Africa as a result of their occupational exposure to carcinogens such as asbestos and diesel engine exhaust emissions,” the statement read.
Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State, in his address, commended the IOSH for promotion and maintenance of a healthy working population through the advocacy of a safe workplace environment and safety standards.
He said a lot of people shied away from reporting work-related accidents or illnesses, leading to the underreporting of such occurrences and causing dilemma in keeping records and proffering solutions.
Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by Layemi-Adeyemo Kuburat, director, Occupational Health, Ministry of Health, said statistics revealed that 160 million people had work-related disease leading to reduced productivity in organisations, many of which could be prevented.
“Furthermore, the average cost of populated injuries and Nigerians with ill-health is 4.3 percent, which is definitely underreported,” he said.
He called for appropriate reporting and investigation of workplace incidents while urging companies and agencies to have a comprehensive work plan and clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
Bev Messinger, chief executive officer, IOSH, said in her address that good health would improve productivity and increase organisational success. Messinger said achieving a safe workplace in all organisations was possible, adding that accidents, hazards, and ill health were preventable in organisations.
“Good health of employees and a safe environment is an investment for any organisation and not a cost as its returns are always visible in its revenue,” she said.
She further said the activities of the IOSH was in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and called for improved collaboration among personnel, agencies, organisations and the government to ensure the availability of a safe workplace where healthy employees would effectively and efficiently carry out their duties.
Alan Stevens, head of strategic engagement, IOSH, said it was necessary for all stakeholders to collaborate and foster a safe environment where healthy employees would be fully productive in their various activities
“For a productive business that will lead to a growing economy, everyone must be healthy and the environment as well must be safe,” Stevens said.