By Sola Ogundipe
The Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria (SOEHPON) has called for a review of the law guiding occupational health in Nigeria, saying it has become obsolete.
Making the call in Lagos during the Society’s 2017 Annual Conference & Annual General Meeting (AGM), the National President, SOEHPON, Dr. Okon Akiba, said there was urgent need to bridge the existing gaps.
Akiba, who spoke during the event themed: Occupational Health for All, said there was the urgent need to adopt a National Policy and Programme for occupational health that include actions for providing competent occupational health services for all people at work.
“Occupational Health is not about us, it is about the public. We are sharing knowledge about safety in the workplace and ensuring the right policies are in place and that guidelines are put in place.
“The employers of labour are more interested in the work forgetting that the employees have to be healthy, the workplace has to be safe and will be more cost effective at the end of the day because a healthy workforce is a healthy organisation and the end point is enhanced productivity.
According to Akiba: “We play the advocacy role, but government and policymakers are not understanding. The law is obsolete. Occupational health is law, legislation, and policy and guidelines- driven, other than that, we are nowhere. We must do it and put it in the cost of production,” he said.
Further, Akiba noted that the gaps in policy are big; “it is only as a matter of passion for us having worked in multinational companies, that we see these things.
“Occupational health is almost non-existent here, there is a differnce between just providing curative and medical health. Occupational health is about being proactive, you have to be proactive, the workers must know the hazards.
“You must tell them the hazards involved in their work and you must put in place all the preventive measures so that the workplace is healthy.
“Your workers’ health should not impact on your work, neither should your work impact on your workers’ health,” he avowed.
The National Secretary, SOEHPON, Dr. Uche Enumah said the conference was ideal for upgrading knowledge and to interact and network.
“We do this annually to train ourselves. We have a two-day pre-training workshop. Medicine is all about continuing education and latest developments in the field.
“Health and safety at work are important matters that relate to the general health and well being of working people and therefore, should be given due consideration in policies, at all levels. Health and safety problems at work are, in principle, preventable and should be done by using all available tools, legislative, technical, research, training, education, information and economic instruments,” he said.
“The government should ensure the development of necessary infrastructure for effective implementation of occupational health programmes, including health services, research programmes, training and education, information services and data banks. Networking of such infrastructures within and among the countries would substantially facilitate their efforts to implement national programmes.