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IOSH Conference: Experts speak on ways to create safe workplace amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Health experts, practitioners and stakeholders across Nigeria have suggested the best models workplaces and organisations can adopt to create a safe work environment amid rise in cases of COVID-19 across Africa.

Speaking during the 2021 West Africa Conference of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which was held on September 16 to 17, themed ‘A Brighter, Safer Future – for Workers, for Businesses, for West Africa,’ Guy Mbayo, Technical Officer, WASH; UHP-CHE at World Health Organization said governments need to formulate national policies to ensure the safety of workers.

While giving his keynote address on ‘Occupational safety and health for a brighter, safer future,’ Mbayo said organisations need to put measures in place to ensure the safety of workers and one of such ways is to encourage remote working.

He listed other ways to ensure the safety of workers to include sufficient hygiene supply at the workplace, deployment of sufficient health resources for workers, training of workers remotely, partial re-opening of offices and monitoring workspace before increasing the number of staff work.

Mbayo said there must be a conscious effort by organisations to enforce COVID-19 protocols in workplaces by recommending physical distancing, disinfecting surfaces, and having a ventilated office space amongst others.

In a goodwill message, Lanre Mojola, director-general, Lagos State Safety Commission said the two days conference provides an avenue for occupational safety and health professionals, representatives of government establishments and other relevant stakeholders to share expertise and experiences and also the opportunity to deliberate on current global trends in occupational safety and health management.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought up new challenges in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. The import of this is that as safety practitioners we have to continually review and upgrade our safety management systems in line with present-day realities.

“This conference, therefore, provides the opportunity to develop new strategies to check the spread of the virus within the West African region bearing in mind our unique peculiarities and cultures. For organisations, it brings to the fore the necessary discussions and action plans required to significantly reduce injuries caused by accidents and illnesses due to exposure to dangerous occurrences across workplaces in the region,” Mojola said.

He said as an agency of government responsible for the regulation and coordination of matters relating to the safety of lives and properties of Lagos residents, the Lagos State Safety Commission formulates guidelines, approves codes of practices, policies and regulations towards deepening safety practices across the state.

He said the commission also regularly carries out safety advocacy and awareness sessions to different stakeholders across the state.

“Our inspection, monitoring and enforcement teams routinely go round the states to check for compliance with safety standards and protocols. We look forward to fruitful collaborations with IOSH and other partners interested in the growth of occupational safety and health across the West African region.

Speaking earlier, Jimmy Quinn, president IOSH, said he was delighted by the excellent work that has been carried out by members of IOSH West Africa Division to attract new members and strengthen it.

He said despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic, the institute still has the means to share information, exchange ideas and debate important topics.

“The keynote presentation, panel discussions and workshop have been assembled specifically to address issues which have been raised as issues of concern in the region,” he said.

He noted that divisions in Nigeria and Ghana and IOSH staff in the UK have worked together to ensure issues that concern the regions are addressed.

Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher, CEO IOSH, said IOSH is the chartered body for safety and health, and the leading membership organization for safety and health professionals who work to create workplaces that are safer, healthier and more sustainable.

“IOSH is intent on continuing to extend its influence and work with partners in business, government and civil society to make a safer and healthier future for workers, for businesses and for West Africa,” she said.

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