Mr. Sean Nonso Nwaogu is the Lagos Head of Operations and Head Trainer, World Safety Organisation, Nigeria Office. In this interview with Safety Record’s Paul Mbagwu, he identifies and proffers solutions to some of the challenges facing the safety profession in Nigeria. Excerpt…
Tell us about yourself?
I am Sean Nonso Nwaogu, the Head of Operations and Head Trainer, World Safety Organisation (WSO), Nigeria Chapter. I am a graduate of University of Benin. I majored in Pharmacology and Human Physiology. A friend of mine introduced me into safety in 2014 when I began my safety career. I was the first person to be trained by WSO Nigeria on Marine Safety and Oil and Gas Operational Safety in that same 2014, after which I was retained by the Director WSO, Mr. Soji Olalokun as his Personal Assistant. I later became an Assistant Trainer and in charge of national operations. So far, I am certified in over 21 safety courses. They are: oil and gas operational safety, marine safety, construction safety, risk assessment and management safety, fire risk assessment, process safety management, food safety, among others. I have developed some courses for WSO, which are: compress gas safety, fire risk assessment, authorised gas testing and monitoring, BOSIET, etc.
Why did you choose to go into safety, despite studying Pharmacology and Human Physiology?
I didn’t choose safety; I will say safety chose me. Safety called me. I have this passion for safety. As a medical professional, I have this passion when it comes to anything involving health and safety. And like I said, safety chose me.
Tell us about WSO and what they do in Nigeria
Firstly, let me say that the World Safety Organisation (WSO) is an NGO and a safety body that offers membership and consultancy. We are trying to make safety a way of life. We are trying to educate people when it comes to safety. We are trying to introduce and publicise safety to the whole world.
What are your plans to drive WSO’s vision in Lagos as the state’s head?
Right now, I am using the ‘SafERR’ school project as a key or a point of contact to sell or move WSO forward. ‘SafERR’ means Safety and Emergency Response Ready. WSO has a project called the ‘SafERR’ school in Nigeria which is about introducing safety to tertiary institutions, primary schools and secondary schools here in Nigeria. So far so good, we are partnering with NYSC corps members. We have about seven of them (corps members) posted to us who work under me. I teach these corps members how to facilitate HSE Level 1 to level 3 and First Aid. Of course, we have also gone to schools – secondary schools and primary schools, to organise safety seminars and workshops, like we did at Loral International Secondary School at Igbesa, Ogun state.
I happened to graduate from the school aforementioned and as a member of their Old Student’s Association, I was invited as a safety professional to educate the students on safety. I had actually taught them First Aid and CPR. We have some other schools on the mainland and the Island (in Lagos), where I have gone to teach them First Aid and CPR.
I teach First Aid, CPR and fire safety to primary and secondary school students, because daily, nobody likes fire but no matter how much you try to prevent fire outbreak, we still have fire destructing our work places and the rest. So, I teach these students how to use the fire extinguishers to extinguish the fire when you have a fire outbreak. I try to also let them know that each of these gases have their own appropriate fire extinguishers to be used.
In some cases, we also have students who play football and we definitely can’t stop kids from having their fun, but sometimes they injure themselves or get dehydrated. Dehydration can cause them to faint or go into shock. So, we try to teach them how to actually help their schoolmates probably before the school nurse comes or they activate the Emergency Medical Service (EMS). And some schools don’t even have school nurse and so we have to train these kids so they can help themselves. For example, if one has a bleeding nose, he doesn’t have to raise his head up. He has to apply pressure by pinching his nose and tilting his head forward down to the chest and stay like that for 10-15 minutes, after which you have the blood clotting. After 10 or 15 minutes, all the person has to do is put the finger in the nose and remove the clotted blood. Through these, the students, even when they get home, become safety and security conscious. They even show their parents what to do.
In the United Kingdom, an 8-year-old girl performed CPR on her mum who experienced cardiac arrest. Before the emergency medical service could reach the house, the girl had already resuscitated her mum. Now, this is what I noticed most our kids cannot even do in Nigeria. They don’t know this and so they can’t do it. What they know is: “Mummy, buy me biscuit!” But when it comes to impacting this knowledge unto our kids, they don’t have the source or the connection to bring people (safety professionals) to teach the kids these (safety orientations).
Even the teachers who work in the schools don’t know. These days, when you ask an adult or even a primary or secondary school teacher how many traffic lights we have in Nigeria, they will tell you three, which is right. But when you tell them to mention it, they will tell you “green, yellow and red”. Some of them will tell you “green, orange and red” which is wrong. ‘Green’ and ‘red’ is right while ‘yellow’ or ‘orange’ is wrong. It is the ‘amber’ colour, which is the urine colour (not yellow or orange), and that is exactly what we have on the traffic light.
I can recall an incident that occurred sometime back when I was travelling. I saw this accident scene were someone had a fracture and the road safety officials at the accident scene where trying to carry this person with a fractured leg. And we know that with fracture, if you don’t treat that person on time the person will go into shock. You don’t treat someone with a broken bone by moving that broken bone because the bone can actually tear out of the skin of that flesh and the person goes into shock or trauma and from there the person dies. I had to call the road safety and tell them that they were not doing it in a proper way. They needed to mobilise the broken bone first before they could lift that person. So, I had to run into the bush, break some sticks and beg people for handkerchiefs. I had to mobilise the broken bone and then ask them to help in lifting the person into the car and then to the hospital.
Our projects have seen us go from school to school, community to community, and church to church. I was in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, their province headquarters at Sango-Ota, and I also went to deliver First Aid and CPR to them at a seminar. That way I don’t only sell myself but also sell WSO. When they want to get associated with the organisation I work with I tell them “Oh, it is WSO”. Wherever I go to I tell them “Oh, this is WSO”. So, I am not just selling myself as a safety professional, but I use it to sell WSO.
Presently, we are using the ‘SafERR School’ and the ‘SafERR project’ to publicise WSO to communities, schools and let them know that they need safety orientation and safety training in Lagos state.
Where do you see WSO under your leadership in the next five years in Lagos state?
I have gained a lot of recognition when it comes to receiving awards, delivering at conferences, seminars, and workshops in schools, communities, churches, oil and gas institutes, safety schools and the rest. When it comes to WSO in Nigeria and Lagos state in the next five years, I see us rising above OSHA, IOSH and NEBOSH for instance; this is because WSO certificates are in demand right now. As it is presently, I have trained a whole lot of professionals, not just in Lagos, but in Nigeria as a whole. I have trained people working in offshore in Port-Harcourt, people working in NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority), and in construction companies. I have been to so many construction companies to train their staff both on-site and off-site. When we’re talking about on-site, I have trained skilled labourers who don’t even know how to speak the English language. I use pidgin or broken English to teach and train them on-site.
So in five years’ time, I see WSO in charge of safety in Nigeria. We are not trying to overthrow ISPON, but in terms of safety in Nigeria, I see us doing a whole lot of things. Like I said earlier, I see us making safety a part of every life.
You have written a number of books, one of which is ‘The Quantitative Phytochemical Analysis on Bitters’. What is it all about and what informed it?
Like I said, I majored in Pharmacology & Medical Human Physiology in the University of Benin for six years. Now, my reason for writing the book was not actually to sell the book but for the passion I have for my profession. And there is this argument between trado-medical professionals and the medical professionals. Now someone brings out a herbal drug and says it cures HIV, AIDS, diabetes, hypertension and many other ailments. Only one drug! As a pharmacologist and a medical professional, I know that some drugs (when it comes to the English drugs) are being produced for a specific purpose and not for general treatment of different purposes.
I decided to go into analysing herbal drugs and I had to pick on bitters in general. I had to analyse over ten bitters including ‘Yoyo bitters’, ‘Pasa Bitters’, ‘Swedish Bitters’, ‘Alomo Bitters’, ‘Action Bitters’ and the rest. I got to realise that, yes, this bitters actually do a lot of work. What is the main work of bitters? The main work of bitters is to cleanse and detoxify the body. When I lecture HSE, there is a course called ‘occupational health’. In occupational health, I try to let my students know that carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. And apart from inhaling carbon monoxide, they also ingest carbon monoxide; and they ask how? I then say, “You eat smoked fish.” Smoked fish can absorb carbon monoxide. You eat Suya, roasted plantain, yam, potato and chicken. Some will even tell you that party rice is the best, but I tell them that you have carbon monoxide absorbed into these food substances.
We have what is called the acute and chronic. The acute is an illness that occurs over a short period of time, while chronic is an illness that occurs over a long period of time repeatedly. The injection of carbon monoxide is actually not acute but chronic. You tend to see that when some people get to the age of sixty and they try to hold a glass of water, their hands start jerking. They cannot hold a glass or a bottle of water because of the excessive intake of alcohol and the digestion of carbon monoxide.
Another question my students like to asked me is, “this same carbon monoxide is what our parents were eating that made them live long for over 100 years before they die”. I tell them that our generation is quite different from that of our forefathers’ generation in the sense that they eat this food, and please do not forget that after eating these foods, they go into the forest or enter the bush and pluck lemon grass, they pluck bitter leaf, scent leaf, pumpkin leaf, wash it and then squeeze it, extract the liquid from these vegetables, roots and herbs, and they drink it. Now what does the roots, leaves and seed do in the body? The roots, the leaves and the seeds are referred to as phytochemicals. What phytochemicals do in the body is that they detoxify and cleanse the system. So you see when our grandparents lived on eating food absorbed with carbon monoxide they actually detoxify and cleanse their system almost every day, almost every week, but in our generation we eat these things and don’t care to detoxify our system and yet you see people taking alcohol or one assorted carbonated drink.
My major aim for actually conducting research on herbal drugs and bitters as a whole was to find out the secret between trado-medical drugs and the English drugs.
You have talked about giving free training to communities and school. What is your reaction to this concept or norm of every safety professional charging fees for safety seminars as against making it free, since the aim of every safety professional is to propagate safety?
When it comes to safety training in Nigeria, WSO Nigeria is an NGO. In safety trainings we have a whole lot of logistics embedded in it. We give out soft and hard copy materials. We also give them (the trainees) tea breaks and lunch. When there is no light, of course we fuel the generator. We run the air conditioners and try to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes we hire mannequins, and for those that don’t hire it, probably buy the mannequins. These mannequins are for First Aid and CPR and these training aids are quite expensive. This is the reason why we charge. However I quote, WSO does not overcharge when it comes to safety trainings. For NYSC corps members we run something like a partnership and a discount fee for them. Irrespective of this, we treat them like we treat working class unlike NEBOSH. I think so far in Nigeria NEBOSH and IOSH in safety charge the highest (fees). But for WSO, we charge lesser. The reason why WSO charge lesser is because we are not trying to sell safety. Safety should not be sold. Safety should not be something that should be sold. It should be free to everybody. Everybody should be able to have free access to safety. It shouldn’t be sold. WSO in Nigeria noticed that IOSH charges expensively, NEBOSH charges expensively and OSHA charges expensively. We noticed ISPON also charges expensively. So right now, because we are trying to make safety a way of life, we are not trying to sell safety since we are trying to encourage everybody to be safety conscious.
In WSO, we decided to charge lesser than what other people charge. The only reason why we even charge at all is because of the logistics involved. As an NGO, we cannot use our own money to run these logistics. We need money to run this logistics and we need our students to feel comfortable and provide them with every available material, as well as making the whole thing lively for them…cuts in.
As an NGO, are you not supposed to be reaching out to artisans and local market sellers who don’t have money to pay for these trainings? Remember, they also have safety hazards and challenges as well. What are the efforts you are making to get to them?
That is where the Nigerian SafERR programme comes to play. Like I said, we have been going to schools, churches and communities. Now, when it comes to the market women, of course they are part of the communities, but when it comes to artisans, I have been to a construction site where I was sent to educate them. They were not literate and I had to come down to their level. I used pidgin English to teach them. I thought them on fire safety, CPR and First Aid and I thought them these courses in pidgin.
When I teach safety lectures, I try to make the lectures very lively. Now, if you meet any of my students and ask them about my lectures, they will tell you that I make the lectures very lively, because apart from lecturing them safety, we actually talk reality. We talk about other things like relationships, our past lives, during our lunch breaks; I play movies for them and try to make it lively. So, when it comes to artisans and others that is where the ‘SafERR’ program of WSO comes in.
As it is now, we have been doing a lot in Lagos. If you ask so many schools in Festac and other areas, they will tell you I have been to their schools and they enjoy the trainings and they actually want to partner with WSO in safety. They want more safety lectures. The artisans and uneducated people are not left out. We reach out to them when we go on this community sensitisation. Even the mosques are not left out. WSO in Nigeria does not segregate anybody when it comes to spreading safety across Nigeria.
What is your upcoming conference and award in Nigeria all about?
It is about recognising safety professionals all across Nigeria. WSO started this conference last year and this year’s is going to be better than the last one. We actually had a massive turnout in the last one which we didn’t actually expect. We had the DG of Lagos State Safety Commission, Hon. Hakeem Dickson in the conference. We actually endorsed him as a SafERR Ambassador for WSO Nigeria.
So, the conference is all about recognising safety professionals, including the upcoming ones who are not left out. We have different categories of awards recognising fire men, environmental professionals, health and safety professionals. We also have categories for safety organisations and personnel, and the rest. The conference is organised to also recognise safety professionals and to also network and communicate with safety professionals all across Nigeria.
Why is safety thriving in Lagos at the expense of other states?
As it is presently, in the 36 states we have in Nigeria, safety activities in Lagos state is much higher than what we have in other states. This is because we all know that it is centre of commerce. We have a whole lot of industries and companies and so when it comes to Lagos state, the recognition of safety is higher than what we have in other states because we have 60% of safety professionals residing in Lagos state with about 40% spread across the other states in Nigeria.
But we have many industries in Ogun State and the oil companies in the south-south region of the country, for instance. Why are safety activities low in those places and the professionals are not spreading out to those other states? Is there anything in particular that is the reason for that?
I will say selfish interest of some individuals when it comes to safety. Like I said, safety should not be sold. It should be free. Everybody should be able to have access to safety but right now we have a whole lot of safety professionals, safety organisations and safety training providing bodies trying to sell safety. They are trying to make money out of safety. It is not like they are into safety for the passion of it, but for the money involved. I think that is why you think safety is stagnant in other states and thriving in Lagos.
When someone wants to take a safety programme in Nigeria, let us take for instance NEBOSH IGC in Nigeria, the cost is too high, going into hundreds of thousands of naira, the same applies to IOSH. For God’s sake, we have people who are not working but want to run safety courses and go into the profession. For one who is not working or fresh graduate out of school, who wants to go into safety, how does that kind of person raise the money?
My advice to safety professionals, organisations and safety training providing bodies is that they should all come together to reach a consensus in a meeting or a conference to see how we can reduce the fees of these safety courses. For God sake it is outrageous. As a safety trainer, yes, I am the head trainer for WSO and I train for more than six oil and gas firms here in Lagos state. I know how much they charge and as a safety lecturer, I try to, even at this expensive fee they charge the students, I try as much as possible to teach more than what is requested of me to teach for that particular course.
When teaching our HSE 1-3, I teach them confined space entry, I teach the HSE calculation when it comes to manpower. I teach them assessment and management; I give it to them as a full course. I teach them working at height, I teach them energy isolation, I teach them lifting operation – a whole lot of things which is not supposed to be in HSE level 1-3. I try to do that because I know how much they pay. It is not easy for them to raise this money.
So I think the reason why safety is thriving in Lagos state, even when you have a whole lot of safety professionals in Nigeria, is because people in Lagos state are selling safety. They have now used safety as a business venture. Sometimes when you go to these safety schools, they don’t teach the students what they ought to know. They just run the safety trainings anyhow because they are only interested in the student’s money and not imparting good knowledge into these students. I believe in impacting quality knowledge into people. I don’t want to die with my knowledge, I want to share and spread my knowledge.
In a way, that is a way of selling it. Today, I don’t sell myself again; my students sell me these days. I get calls from people telling me they got my number from people who I tutored and that I am very good. That way I get more people for training. It is not because I am the best safety lecturer, but I think it is because of the way I impart this knowledge into them. I teach people to learn and not just to pass exams. I teach them for safety to become a part of them or a way of life.
We had a programme in April where I was part of the speakers. I told people when they asked me a question. I said “safety is a way of life”. Safety is all about using your common sense. For example, I spilled water on the floor. You don’t need someone to tell you to mop it up. That is referred to as an unsafe act which might lead to an unsafe condition and result into an accident. Of course, that is you applying your common sense. I think what I will encourage safety professionals, organisations and bodies in Nigeria to do is not to sell safety. Safety should be free. Everybody should be able to have access to safety as a whole and not using it as a business venture to extort people of their hard-earned money. I think that is why safety is striving in Lagos state and not spreading and just stagnate.
Finally, what message do you have for Nigerians?
I think in the United States, safety has gone viral and has gone worldwide. In Nigeria we are still seen as part of the third generation countries in the world which is not supposed to be so. God has blessed us with a lot of natural resources and Nigeria is actually a blessed nation. In fact, if not one of the richest countries, I should say the richest country in Africa. My advice to Nigerians, both the literate and illiterate, is that everybody should key into safety. Today, we are complaining about Boko Haram, Niger Delta militants and so many terrorist groups. We have a whole of bombings and crime rate increasing in Nigeria, but if everybody in this country is safety conscious, this crime rate will reduce. If we know and have the appropriate numbers to call when it comes to crises, because of course, crises is part of safety and managing crises is a part of safety too. If we know how to manage these crises, I think things will be better in this country. And how do we learn how to manage this crisis? It is for everybody to be safety-oriented.
Like I said earlier, what I will advise safety professionals, bodies and training providers is to how we can reduce the training fees when it comes to safety courses. Like what WSO is doing with the SafERR programme in Nigeria, we are trying to see what we can do to promote safety and how we can teach people and give them safety orientation, safety induction in health, safety, security and the environment as a whole. When they have this training, this knowledge and orientation is going to be a part of them and this will go a long way in Nigeria.
WSO in Nigeria cannot do everything when it comes to safety, we need partners and support. We need financial and manpower support both on the state and federal level, from the government and even from the public in general. I even think we need more of the public support because when the public gives us more support, it encourages us as WSO to do more in Nigeria. We know we don’t get paid for this SafERR programme as we deliver it free of charge because we want to build a safer nation and a safer Nigeria in essence.