The Nigerian Senate

Incoming Senate Tasked on Occupational Health, Safety Bill

In continuation of its promotion of improved workers’ health and safety in the workplace, the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria (SOEHPON), has called on the incoming 10th National Assembly, NASS, to enact appropriate laws to support and facilitate delivery of occupational health and safety as right to all workers in all areas of human endeavor nationwide.

The Society, which is the umbrella professional body for all occupational health practitioners in Nigeria, also charged the nascent 10th NASS to look at the Bill on Occupational Health and Safety before it.

Speaking during a walk to commemorate the 2023 World Day for Safety and Health @ Work, theme: “A safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right at work”, President of SOEHPON, Dr. Musa, Shaibu, said the incoming NASS should pass the Bill into an Act.

“This is one of the ‘obsolete’ labour laws currently pending in the National Assembly. This Bill needs to be urgently passed into an Act of the National Assembly for the benefit of every Nigerian. We, therefore, strongly recommend to the leadership of all organisations, to emplace adequate support with unequivocal management commitment to promote and protect the health and safety of their workers,” he said.

Noting that a significant portion of deaths and disabilities from the workplace affect workers in low and middle-income countries like Nigeria, Shuaibu said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), recognise that people spend significant parts of their lives at work, and that a healthy working population in a safe working environment is critical to a healthy and safe national population.

Shuaibu said the WHO advocates that governments at all levels work with employers to ensure that workplace programmes are emplaced to protect the health, safety and well-being of their workers as a right of all workers.

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Shuaibu also said occupational health is one specialty of Medicine that provides for the health and safety of people at work. It is one specialty in healthcare that provides for every citizen; so long as the person is alive and has a livelihood, even the child in kindergarten.

He said it aims to promote and maintain workers’ optimal physical, mental and social well-being.

“The symbolism of this walk today can therefore not be over-emphasised as it draws attention to physical exercise, a key wellness activity which employers must not only provide for but support to enhance the workers’ optimal physical and mental health. The health benefits of regular exercises are enormous.”

To the Executive, he said. “To ensure strict application of relevant laws on workers’ health and safety, regulators of such laws must be properly trained and empowered for effectiveness.”

He charged the leadership and captains of industry to pay sincere commitment to the safety, health and well-being of their workers by emplacing, enabling and supporting adequate systems to enhance occupational health programmes and services in their organisations.

In the views of the Director, Corporate Services Administration, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Juliet Okoro, safety is every one’s business.

“Our management is very concerned about workplace safety, infact safety is our watchword in the PRC and the oil and gas industry, so the staff is always sensitised.”

Also speaking, the Team Lead, Occupational Health Services, Medbury medical services and Dr. Ofili Anthony, focus should be on occupational health and provision of adequate medical support.