We need to educate artisans about workplace safety – Mrs. Bose Iro-Nsi

Coupled with her tireless community service, the Executive Director of Women’s Right and Health Project (WRAHP), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization, Mrs. Bose Iro-Nsi, has dedicated part of the activities of her NGO in creating safety consciousness at the grassroots. In this interview, she reveals to Safety Record Newspaper’s journalists, Bernard Victory and John Ogunsemore how the involvement of big corporations and government at the grassroots through safety enlightenment can effectively boost safety consciousness in the country.

For the benefit of those who do not know you, can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Bose Iro-Nsi. I am the Executive Director of Women’s Right and Health Project (WRAHP), an organization set up to work and engage the community to prioritize health and rights especially as it affects women, men and other people in the community.

Can you give us a little more insight into your NGO and how you engage in safety?
WRAHP has been in existence for the past seven years and our focus has always being to work with community structures in prioritizing their health. For example in areas of community health, we work with mechanics, spray painters’ association, hair dressers’ association to look at safety when it comes to their health. Last year, in partnership with a company, Occupational Health and Hygiene Services, we were able to create awareness of safety among mechanics and spray painters’ association to look at the hazards of their work. And you will be amazed that most of this people were not cognizant of simple safety measures.
For example, a spray painter did not know that he needed to cover his face and his nose and wear the right materials before carrying out their jobs. The mechanic did not know how to lift a heavy object like the engine of a car. So, these are the things we partner with a safety organization and try to fix. They come to the community to help in identifying these hazards.
Before now, I have worked with Chevron in checking small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) in areas of health in the community and that took us from Lagos to other states, like Nassarawa and Kogi. Usually, these categories of people in the community are in the supply chain of Chevron. So, what we did was to make sure that in areas of health, we were able to enlighten them on the importance of knowing their health status regularly especially when it comes to blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, amongst others.
For the mechanics, we also helped them as a way of linking them up with hospitals where they can get treatments and when we did checkups for them- we checked their blood pressure and did eye test for them. We realized that some of them have really exposed themselves to dangers due to their work and the environment in which they operate. If you go to a mechanic environment, you will see a lot of engine oil being spilled on the floor – their nails and hands are not protected. Even though they have gowns that they wear, they don’t wear helmet. All these are safety tips that we work on.
Then for the tailors, we realized that most of them sit for a very long time while sewing and this has effect on their waist and posture.
Then looking at safety generally, we are also at the community level to help the community to speak out for their safety in terms of violence, safety in terms of protection for children, women and men as well.

You have spoken broadly and from what you have said, you have been able to combine community service with safety. How were you able to carve out this niche?
From my medical background; I am a retired nurse and in combination with my work with community people is how I carved out this niche.
I tell you that in whatever issues I want to do whether in intervention we work through the structures in the community. The community has structures and if you really want your message to go down to the community, you need to work with the people that are there.
One interesting thing about it also is that the community people know how to organize themselves. For example, you have the barbers’ association, hair dressers’ association, to mention a few of the organized groups in the community.
Working with these people I began to understand some things about them. For example, you cannot really separate an individual from the work he or she does and when you go deeper, you will also see that they need some psychosocial support, they need some counseling in terms of safety. You cannot really separate community service in terms of their work and well being. You cannot separate them.
If you get a mechanic that is not well balanced, of course he is going to put a wrong knot into your engine and then you will encounter problems. And of course again, I understand global warming. I understand the environment that these people practice their work, you will realize that they are dirty. They spill oil all over the place and it has serious effects on the environment and so we cannot separate them.

What are some of the safety projects that you have engaged in with this community?
We have done something about safety in terms of practice. We have done some enlightenment programs in some of these associations. We enlighten them on what they should do in terms of protecting themselves from the dangers of their profession.
For example, the spray painters need to cover their nose when they are working. Then the mechanics in terms of how they should lift things because of back pain; and when drilling some of their chemicals like the engine oil, how they can avoid polluting the environment with it. The vulcanizers should also try and keep their tyres well which is also a danger for everybody because mosquitoes can breed around them and that is another problem for the general public. Then for the tailors, we are also looking at their sitting positions and how that is affecting their health in terms of their cardiovascular problems.
We also enlighten generally to prevent domestic violence and all forms of violence against persons in the community.

How do you think the government and other safety organizations can come into this – that is incorporating safety in the grassroots?
The government needs to put safety measures in place; there should be standards of operation to say that if you are doing this kind of business this is what it entails. They should try and train and retrain people in the community. If you look very well, most mechanics are under high tension and that’s not being safety conscious even at that level. And then when you go to where they work, you will see them, they will hang cars on sticks that are shaking. Those are hazards that they are exposed to. The tools they even use are not good tools.
I have seen where a vulcanizer died while he was just popping in the air when the tyre went blasting at him. These are as a result of clear ignorance of safety measures, but who is monitoring them to know what is been done. Yet, if you go to a real automobile company, you discover that there are safety measures. The grass root level is abandoned.
Well, before now I have been thinking that other organizations should key in. We can do the community mobilization for them. We are working with the tailors’ association at Lagos state level. We work with market women. We work with all the trade associations and I believe that some of these large companies can work with us at the community level. The government can’t do everything. If we wait for the government to do everything we will not be able to achieve what we want to achieve.
When we identified with some of the people in the community associations, some of them were diagnosed with high blood pressure; some with diabetes. The spray painters had some eye issues.
I believe what these people need is constant enlightenment. The government should constantly engage with this people; corporations can also come in to do this enlightenment.

There was an issue early this year at Queens College at Yaba where a male teacher reportedly harassed a female student. What safety lessons can we take from these in terms of protecting the girl child from future occurrences?
One is that parents should come out of their shell not to talk about issues about sex to their children. They should learn about what is happening globally. They should intentionally seek for materials about parenting just like they are looking for the best jewelries and the best motor cars to buy. You should be able to educate your children as to look at warning signs when people are making undue advances to them to know that you need to raise alarm. You should be close to your kids at home and not just when you take them to eateries. No, you should sit down with them, understand their behavioral patterns. Tell them what is happening in the society and what they should expect.
Drivers are involved in this, security men are involved in this and these are the people we leave our kids in the hands of. Most people who take undue advantages on these children are people that are close to them. They are not strangers. They are actually our drivers, our cousins, people who are close within the family environment.
We must encourage our children to speak out. The perpetrators will threaten them that if they speak out, they will kill their father or their mother, and they will kill them- it’s a lie. We need to begin to tell them that.
Parents should discuss and let their children know the dangers that are…

Want to read full article? Subscribe to get Safety Record Newspaper