Lagos Vision Zero Surprised Me – Ghana’s Representative, Emilia Akumah

Ms Emilia Akumah (centre) and other participants at the Lagos Vision Zero Conference which held recently
Ms Emilia Akumah (centre) and other participants at the Lagos Vision Zero Conference which held recently

Ms Emilia Akumah is driving Vision Zero for the Labour Ministry in Ghana. She was at the Lagos Vision Zero Conference held at the Landmark Centre, Victoria Island between June 26 and 28, where she spoke to Safety Record Newspaper’s John Ogunsemore about her take-aways from the conference and expectations for the proposed Ghana Vision Zero Conference slated for October 30 and 31, 2018. Excerpt…

What impression do you have about this event?

I think this event is very fantastic. I have been to several events across the world and this has really surprised me, not in a bad way; I have been pleasantly surprised at the organisation, execution, attendance. It has all been very international. It has sort of encouraged me and I have got so ideas from this event towards what we are going to organise. It has all been very impressive and I have told a few people that it is on the same level as what we’ve got in Singapore, Germany and those other developed countries.

Is the vision of a workplace that is entirely free from accidents possible?

It is possible, (although) it is a lot of hardwork and it will have its own issues because we are people and even when there are systems, man is an issue. It is very possible and it requires commitment from leadership and staff or employees. And so whenever whoever is in charge of health and safety is able to get the buy-in of management and staff, Vision Zero is very, very possible. And I like the fact that they are involving private and government agencies in Lagos in the Vision Zero drive. Generally, I think that in time you are going to achieve Vision Zero in Nigeria.

What impact do you think attitudinal change can have on achieving Vision Zero since we live in a continent where majority believe that God is their safety?

Attitude is everywhere, if you are trying to compare us to the Western world. When you read through their books and studies to get information about how they have come so far, they weren’t always like that. They used to have very bad accidents, very bad data and records too. But then they were improving, laws were enacted, employees were engaged, companies were engaged, monies were provided. So if we learn to implement step by step the adequate laws and give the enforcement agencies the right resources, then we can start driving the message harder and deep down in to the minds of people that when one person dies, it affects the other person. With Vision Zero (in Africa) starting here, I think that with time it is going to really blow up. People are going to change attitude, (and) it all depends on who is in authority and has the power to drive that message. It is achievable. I know we are a bit stubborn here in Africa but things are changing, people are learning and are beginning to become more concerned about their own safety. In time, safety is not going to be a big as it is now.

What is the most important element in achieving Vision Zero?

It is attitude. It is the people. It is sending the right message to people because you can preach safety all day but what is the person picking up? (It is) so that they can change the way they behaved a day before they came for the conference.

Today being the third and last day, what have you been able to take away from the conference?

I have said it three days in a row, it is a collaboration that is highly impressive and if we can get all the relevant agencies to start driving Vision Zero, I can guarantee you that within a very short period of time, there is going to be a new way of safety, health, wellbeing in people’s workplaces and environment at home. The collaboration is very important because safety is for everyone and you can’t do it all on your own. So this is one thing I take from this event and I will implore everybody who is going to organise Vision Zero to involve their own agencies in their states and countries because that is what I am going to do in Ghana anyway.

Could you give small information about Ghana Vision Zero?

Our direction is going to be towards organising a national Vision Zero conference. We are not that huge a country like Nigeria. For us it is going to be a national thing and we are going to involve all the public sector agencies and every socio-economic sector like oil, land, aviation and we will invite heads of institutions and corporations to come and listen, learn from good practice and get some information back to their own company.