The More Associations We Have Clamouring For OSH Bill in Nigeria, the Better for Us as a Country –
Engr. Kayode Fowode, Pioneer National Coordinator, IOSH-Nigerian Informal Network Group
How did you become the first IOSH Nigeria informal group coordinator?
It was a very long time ago; about 7 years ago, precisely, Thursday, March 11, 2010 while working in the UK that I wrote to IOSH and proposed the need for setting up a branch in Nigeria but I received a reply from Jonathan Gorvin then (the International Officer at IOSH) that IOSH was not ready to establish a branch in Nigeria as at that time. He confirmed IOSH would normally expect around 150 – 200 members to be present before considering setting up a branch in Nigeria. When I relocated back to Nigeria, in 2012, I wrote them again on Monday, August 10, 2012 reminding when about the need for us to set up a branch in Nigeria, but that did not happen until I contacted them again in 2015 emphasizing that it’s necessary that IOSH members residing in Nigeria meet even though IOSH was not ready to have a branch in Nigeria. I communicated the reasons why it’s very important that IOSH members who reside in Nigeria should meet regularly.
For instance, I started my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Initial Professional Development (IPD) to become chartered while I was living and working in the UK, but when I relocated back to Nigeria, I did not have anybody to mentor me unlike in the UK when I used to attend the IOSH branch meeting once every month. I was a member of the London Metropolitan Branch then. During branch meetings, we listened to presentations from different guest speakers and experts who share their knowledge about best practices in their specific sector. I used to gain a lot but when I returned to Nigeria, I didn’t have access to all that. So, I felt we can mirror that in Nigeria as well; get a place to meet, get professionals to share their knowledge about best practices, learn from one another and encourage CPD. Moreover, IOSH expects you to update your CPD and put in writing any knowledge gained on your CPD page online.
The other reason I put forward to IOSH is also the need to improve safety within our local community. I know we have the likes of ASSE and ISPON but it’s also important that IOSH members also contribute to improving safety in Nigeria. So, I felt it’s also an avenue to collaborate with other bodies, as well. IOSH sends the SHP magazine where practitioners write on, people read them, and the knowledge we gain from them, we can implement locally, as well.
However, because of resource constrain, I volunteered to be sponsoring the event and also use my company’s Training Centre (Kevron Consulting Limited) for the meeting, networking and CPD events pending when we grow beyond the training room capacity. When I made the offer then, IOSH decided that they would allow us run as an informal group and not as a full branch in the interim until after a while when we must have shown that we are sustainable and can demonstrate commitment over time, then, they can consider making us a full branch. The condition was that we have to have series of meetings, show evidence of workshops, and also evidence that we are impacting on the society; also evidence that our members are increasing in knowledge and number, in networking and making impact within our local community.
I developed a Road Map for achieving these requirements and shared it at our first meeting held February 7, 2015. We have been meeting for about two years now and have grown in numbers beyond Kevron’s training room capacity and have started using external venues for our events. We also had supports from few individuals who sometimes contribute toward refreshments right from the inception. All our efforts have been directed towards promoting the field of occupational safety and health within our local community, promoting members CPD and strengthening the relationship between IOSH and the community of health and safety practitioners in Nigeria as well as promoting networking events and collaboration between practitioners, industry and regulatory agencies within our local community.
That’s all we have been doing so far, until of recent when IOSH nominated me as the National Coordinator for the IOSH-Nigeria Informal Network Group and instructed that we form an executive via a fair nomination system agreed by members for the other executive positions. This was done and we had a successful election and executive members now. We are still at the pilot state and not a full branch yet. The executive member would be leading us through this Pilot stage.
What is the mission of IOSH Nigerian informal group?
It’s to promote the field of occupational health and safety in Nigeria. The health and safety industry in Nigeria is still growing and IOSH strategic vision is to drive health and safety and promote it globally; and since Nigeria is one of the strongest countries in African, it is also very important that we promote that in Nigeria. So, our vision is to promote health and safety in Nigeria.
The other mission is to drive competency among health and safety professionals that is why we bring in different experts from different areas that members can learn from. The third aspect is to build health and safety into our community to help drive health and safety within our own local community. That was why, months back we brought Rated Cranes to come and teach people on how to inspect and erect scaffolds safely. We did that somewhere in Oregun Area in Ikeja. We have been to Lagos State Fire Service, as well to see how we can encourage them and collaborate with them and to understand how they respond in terms of emergency.
We are also looking at collaborating with government institutions; the essence is to encourage them, to show understanding in what they are doing and help them solve some problems. The last part is to help professionals get access to professional materials – IOSH has lots professional materials, from professional magazines to electronic media, to webinars for discussion. Also, to strengthen the relationship between IOSH and the community of health and safety practitioners in Nigeria. These are the reasons for IOSH-Nigeria Informal Network Group.
Presently in Nigeria, we have different safety bodies, ISPON, ASSE Nigeria, SOEHPON, and now IOSH Nigeria, are these not too much? Again, what difference is IOSH going to bring?
I do not think it is too much. Whatever initiatives, programs or institutions that are directed towards the promotion of health and safety in Nigeria would never be too much. In fact, we need more. The reason is because, at the moment, we do not have sufficient occupational health and safety law in Nigeria; although we have the Factory Act, I think we need a more robust bill and more stringent regulation in health and safety – and like they say, the more, the merrier. The more we have associations coming together to drive the reasons why we should have a bill, then the better for us as a country. Another benefit IOSH would bring again, is that most IOSH members have lived and worked in western countries where best practices have been seen and where the standards of health and safety is better appreciated at its heights. They can also implement the knowledge they have gained overseas in Nigeria; and some of these members can also offer support to some of these organizations.
Some IOSH members are also ISPON members and some of the initiatives being driven by IOSH globally can also be localised, and made more applicable and beneficial to fellow professionals and our own community. I think collaboration is key. So, I encourage collaboration with other professional institutions that share the same vision and professional standard. If you look at the body of health and safety practitioners in most developed countries. For instance, the Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP), the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) in the United States and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in the United Kingdom provide a transferrable credential, either domestically or internationally within the profession through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). They all recognized that when you use any of the designation CRSP®/PSAC®, CMIOSH, CSP after a name, then you must have gone through a rigorous process that verifies formal education, professional practice and professional development and that you have successfully passed a competency based certification examination and you must have signed and agreed to abide to a Code of Ethics and maintain ongoing professional development.
These are just few out of the many benefits you enjoy for being a member of IOSH. If you are a CSP holder in the US, you can come to UK and become a CMIOSH once you meet the waiver conditions. This also apply if you are a chartered professional in Canada and you relocate to UK or US. There are some waivers you get because of the synergy between these professional bodies. They share knowledge, best practices and information and these give IOSH members the opportunity to translate easily, even if you have to work overseas. The organization you work for will also have the confidence that the level of knowledge you have gained working in Nigeria can also be appreciated overseas by being an IOSH member.
As a pioneer ISOH Nigeria coordinator, what should Nigeria be expecting from you?
One of the things Nigeria should expect from us is to drive safety the way it has never been driven before and our intention is not to work in isolation, rather to work with other existing organisations as well. We have invited the Lagos Safety Commission former DG and had a meeting with the new DG, Akeem Dickson – we have been there with other associations to show how we can assist in driving health and safety in Lagos. We are also considering working closely with ISPON, to see how we can offer support. Basically, you should expect more collaboration and input from us – we are not going to re-invent the wheels, but we are going to see if there are some gaps where IOSH Nigeria can come in and offer support. We are also looking at the occupational health and safety bill that has gone through the house now and sometime last year; we also reviewed it. We also want to be part of it. I have been talking with the Head of Occupational Health and Safety Department of Nigeria Labour Congress, Maureen Onyia-Ekwuazi. She has also sent a copy of the 2005 bill to us for our members to also review and add value. The Lagos Safety Commission have a committee now for construction and some other industry and our members are also going to be involved in reviewing some of the guidelines for different sectors. So, like I said, they should expect input from us in terms of knowledge and information sharing, collaboration and initiatives that can help drive health and safety in Nigeria.