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SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS: How negligence of safety requirements causes accidents, deaths in Nigeria’s factories

By Theresa Moses, Lagos on 11/06/2016

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Investigations have revealed how negligence of contemporary statutory requirements and lack of concern for basic industrial safety and occupational health requirements in the production process often lead to incessant injuries and avoidable deaths of Nigerian workers in their companies.

In the latest News Express findings, two Lagos-based companies – Hongxing Steel located at Amuwo-Odofin and Cybele, a cosmetics/pharmaceutical outfit on Ladipo Street, Mushin – were unable to provide evidence of compliance with International Labour Organisation standards and extant laws stipulated by the National Policy on Occupational Safety and Health Regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a result, while at Honxing Steel, Mr Emeka Umeh died in an industrial accident on September 16, 2015 and  Mr Obinna Eze lost three fingers while on duty, Mr Moruf Olatunji of Cybele lost a finger due to lack of training on the job, having been exposed to a machine that has not been domesticated.

Some of the workers who agreed to respond to enquiries on condition of anonymity said the companies do not have appropriate protective safety gadgets. It was also revealed, among several cases, that the entire body of late Umeh was scalded by a liquefied iron spill, after which he was taken to a hospital after several hours of waiting for an ambulance, and pronounced dead the following day while Mr Eze, who lost three fingers while on duty, was left without medical care in a local health centre; and was served termination letter while still at the local care centre.

 Confronted with the evidence of non-compliance with statutory safety regulations, resulting in accidents at Honxing, officials said the Managing Director ‘was not on seat.’ Mr Chinedu Elechukwu, who said as a Public Relations Officer he was responsible for bank matters only, referred News Express to the company lawyer, Mr Segun Bello. When contacted on phone, the lawyer said the company Hongxing did not breach any health and safety requirements and directed the reporter to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition for any information about the required document.

At Cybele, News Express met a brickwall as a security lady put a call through to the Personnel Manager, whom she addressed as Mr Frank, whose secretary said her boss was not on seat. Pressed further, the security lady said no one else could speak to the press. When contacted on phone, Mr Frank referred News Express to the Clerk of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition for any information. He threatened to sue News Express if it goes ahead to publish the story of Hongxing’s alleged non-compliance with safety regulations. 

When contacted, President of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN), Dr Reginald Anyanwu, expressed outrage over what he described as the impunity of several manufacturing companies in flouting extant relevant laws and international best practices.

Dr Anyanwu said: “Hongxing and Cybele have breached the Labour Act, 1971, Section 11 on Termination of Contracts of Notice and Section 28, which provides for examination under Section 8 of the same Act and gross breach of Labour Health area which stipulates conditions and facilities of work area as the machine currently in use at the company, which is induction furnace technology as against electric arc furnace technology. Most of the accidents in Hongxing have resulted to fatality because of lack of emergency response plan, no ambulance, non-existence of health and safety manual as required and provided by the Convention R 197 International Labour Organisation (ILO); gross breach of ISPON Act 2014, Section14, Sub-section 3a-b; total breach of Employees Compensation Act 2010, evidence of certificate of competence of victims, etc. If they do, they should bring them. I’ve petitioned Cybele Industry to the Senate.”

The NISCN President disclosed that most factories and manufacturing companies in Nigeria do not adhere to expected safety measures in their operational process, which naturally endangers the lives of their workers, stressing: “All the laws are there but it’s the implementation that has never been practically done, coupled with bureaucratic bottleneck that is hampering the action plans of the Industrial Safety Council.”

Dr Anyanwu recalled that the two were among five companies he reported to the Senate, but while three appeared before the committee, Honxing and Cybele did not. He said he was later informed that the committee clerk arranged a separate meeting for the duo, without the courtesy of notifying him or his office.

•Photo shows NISCN President, Dr Reginald Anyanwu.

Source News Express

Posted 11/06/2016 2:09:22 PM

 

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