By John Ogunsemore
The National Vice Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE), Engr. Tokunbo Ajanaku has called for the integration of safety into the curriculum for the training of civil engineers and other related professionals in Nigerian institutions.
Ajanaku made the call yesterday, in a keynote address delivered at a one-day seminar organised by the NICE Lagos Chapter in conjunction with the Lagos State Safety Commission in Ikeja, Lagos.
He said, “Safety considerations in the built environment starts with training, starts with opening our eyes to the challenges that we face as a people in the built environment.
“Unfortunately for most of us in this system, we are limited by our understanding or rather misunderstanding of the fact that safety does not start in the construction yard.
“That is why it is absolutely important that safety becomes an ingredient of education, an ingredient of advocacy, such that before you qualify as a professional in the built environment, safety must be clearly understood.
“Unfortunately for a good number of us, we cannot place premium, we have not given ourselves the opportunity to understand and appreciate the importance of safety.
“I would want to begin by saying that in the place of engineering, architecture, building, quantity surveying, all of the professionals in the built environment, safety education is most paramount.”
Ajanaku lamented that safety has been usually neglected in every phase of the construction process in Nigeria, leading to many accidents.
According to him, professionals in the built environment that do not have knowledge of safety “deliver dangerous projects”.
“An engineer, an architect, a builder, who does not consider safety can be likened to a hired assassin. The only thing is that you don’t know your target,” he added.
Meanwhile, the General Manager, West Africa Height safety Nigeria, Mr Andre Van Dyk, has decried the lack of concern for safety displayed by many work-at-height professionals in Lagos.
He noted that although the rate of fatal accidents linked to working at height in the construction industry had reduced from 60 per cent to 44 per cent in the last 15 years, a lot of safety awareness still needed to be done to bring the statistics even lower.
According to him, it was unacceptable that 88 per cent of the 44 per cent of work-at-height-related accidents in the construction industry emanates from fall from ladders.
Van Dyk discouraged the practice of in-house training for scaffolders in the Nigerian construction industry, recalling an accident in Washington DC, United States, in which 27 workers died after falling from poorly-constructed scaffolding.
He stated that investigation into the incident and similar ones revealed that the scaffolding was constructed by scaffolders trained in-house.
Comparing photos taken from high-rise construction sites in Lagos in 2018 to photos from the construction site of the Empire State Building, New York in the 1930s, Van Dyk lamented that not much had changed despite global advancement in work-at-height procedures.
He identified the common infractions as lack of proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), non-use of harness, and others.
He urged regulatory agencies, including the Lagos State Safety Commission, to be on their toes to check unwholesome practices leading to fatalities at construction sites in the state.