By Sola Ogundipe
The Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria, SOEHPON, has called for exploration of potentials of health insurance and compensation towards ensuring the occupational health and the safety of Nigerian workers.
Making the call in Lagos, SOEHPON National President, Dr. Effiem Jackson Abbah, said the occupational health, safety and the general welfare of Nigerian workers were non-negotiable.
Abbah who spoke during the Society’s 2019 annual conference, themed ‘Occupational Health and Insurance’, argued that the move was borne out of the need to explore the health insurance in general and workers’ compensation in particular.
“This is in recognition of the persistent hazards inherent in the work environment that continually exposes workers to dangers that invariably lead to injuries and occasional fatalities.
“Whereas creating awareness about health insurance and improving accessibility to workers compensation is at the end of the spectrum in protecting workers’ health. It is a critical element that needs to be flagged and efficiently deployed for the workers’ benefit.”
Urging all relevant stakeholders to facilitate processes that would enhance working conditions towards occupational safety and health in the workplace, the Managing Director/CEO of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, Barr Adebayo Somefun, decried the poor coverage of employment of injury compensation in Nigeria and other African countries.
“This situation points an urgent need to enhance the working conditions in respect of occupational safety and health, as well as improving employment injury coverage for all workers in all sectors of the economy.
“Occupational health is a branch of healthcare that focuses on the physical and mental
the wellbeing of employees in the workplace, while Occupational insurance is insurance
provided to those employees who are injured or who died in the course of the job.
Somefun said it would not be out of place to say that the important criterion for measuring the effectiveness of occupational injury insurance is the ability of the system to ensure that injured workers have access to the health care facilities, access to goods and services they need and that cash benefits reach injured workers for their survivors without delay.
He said it is to be noted that a third of workers’ lives is spent in the workplace where there might be a variety of hazards.
He recalled the ILO finding that 2.78 million deaths occur annually arising from workplace hazards, 2.4 million (86.33 percent) of the deaths being caused by occupational diseases, while fatal occupational accidents account for the remaining 0.38 million (13.68 percent).
This humongous figure, Somefun noted, therefore, makes it very pertinent that for our existence, we need to ensure that we do all within our ability to minimise the chances of incidents/accidents occurring.
“Statistics from the Global Programme Employment Injury and Protection, GEIP, also show that less than 5 percent average of the Labour force in Nigeria and other African countries are covered by law for employment injury through mandatory social insurance.
“If voluntary social insurance coverage and employer liability provisions are included, 9.4 percent of the
labour force thus become covered by the law. Enforcement of occupational safety and health standards in both public and private sectors through effective occupational safety, health and environmental management practice,” Somefun argued.