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‘COVID-19 is good news for health and safety’

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CEO, Hybrid Group, a health and safety company, Dapo Omolade, speaks with Samson Oti on the positive side of COVID-19, the importance of instituting health and safety measures in our daily life/economy and need to create awareness on it.

COVID-19 pandemic has done great damage to lives in Nigeria and the world over, it seems the health and safety industry has a lot to do in a country like Nigeria?

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is a pandemic that has killed so many people; but in other ways, people’s awareness about cleanliness has improved – such as constant hand-washing, using sanitizers and other important precautions. People now realise that they don’t have to stay close to somebody to talk to them, because one can infect the other. So, in a way, COVID-19 is good news for the health and safety industry. However, for more pro-activity, the government has to invest and improve in the health and safety industry, where companies either private or government must have the basic knowledge of health and safety to their jobs.

 What do you feel are the worst challenges to health and safety in Nigeria?

The greatest challenge to health and safety in Nigeria is “Awareness”. As mentioned above, people are becoming conscious. What COVID-19 has brought to us is awareness. The other day, a helicopter crashed just behind us here and I saw how people rushed to help. A very good humanitarian service, no doubt, but they didn’t consider that they could get hurt. People have gone on such help missions and never returned. Imagine somebody in boxers working in a construction site at a height, bending iron without hand gloves, safety boots and stuff. If that person was aware that such negligence could cost him his life, would he or she not have taken caution? So education is a big issue. Lastly, we don’t have the right law and enforcement.

Hybrid recently celebrated the 10-year milestone in Nigeria; what inspired you into the health and safety industry?

Let me put it this way; the safety profession found me. Growing up and up to university, I never had any idea there was any industry called Health & Safety. I was almost out of school when I heard of it for the first time. So, my journey into it has been accidental because it was not something I chose by virtue of my knowledge. However, the journey has been very challenging, very rewarding and very fulfilling – because it’s like the only thing I could have done better. The passion is not just about being called a safety person but being able to ensure that people do not get hurt; that was a big inspiration for me. My passion is to help people not get hurt by their jobs. To the glory of God, we have expanded to other states, and we have been offering the government recommendations on training for some institutions in the country.

How do you think the government can enforce safety in Nigeria?

Enforcing safety first and foremost is for the government to let everybody know that Safety and the sector is part of the economy of the state or the country. The day the governor says health and safety will contribute to our economic progress in this state, then he would put all the systems in place to enforce safety because everyone that dies is a loss to the state. But does the government actually put a cost on the loss? No. But if they understand that it costs 10 million naira to protect this person and that money just disappears, then they will put enforcement into place. When two people die, that is 20million naira. We do not have cost metrics on people’s life, activities; so when something happens to them, there is no calculation to the loss. Governments need to first consider safety as part of their economy indices and it is something they must enforce by putting the right laws, right infrastructure and system in place. If they set up all of those things, it will bring prosperity to the field because it is safe within the business and safety is profit. If you’re not doing safety, then you are not making profit.  Also, if the government is not doing safety then they’re making losses.

Is this how it is done in other countries?

Globally in advanced countries, you have people who are always considering safety as a part of the business. Before they consider safety as part of business, they ensure continuously that everything about safety is monitored. Today in the UK, at the end of the year, they can tell you how much they cost and that is why we have statistics. The UK economy loses about 4billion pounds every year as a result of workplace accidents. How much Nigeria loses, we don’t know; and nobody knows. I’m waiting for the day the statistician-general of Nigeria will publish in the statistics that Nigeria, this year, lost this amount of naira as a result of health and safety breaches.

In the UK, we know the cost of accidents, the cost of everybody that died; the cost of extraction, measurement of absenteeism but we don’t have it here. It’s the in the U.S.; you can check it online. You know as they say, what you don’t measure, you cannot manage. But in honest truth, no job should be done without proper safety in Nigeria, people die untimely due to lack of health and safety knowledge, and nobody cares. It is time for everybody to understand why health and safety is important in every home.

Are you saying such accidents contribute to economic downturn?

Definitely, when there is a massive accident like fire occurring, there can be tanker explosions in a community. That is a loss. Let me cite a typical example, the helicopter crash at Opebi recently, the Lagos State government took responsibility for building the damaged property, is that not a cost? The truth of the matter is that every accident cost money. So when you do not prevent your asset or property, you are losing money.

What do you think the government can do promote health and safety in Nigeria?

Government (and NGOs) needs to do advocacy at the grassroots level. Every Nigerian must understand the benefits of health and safety, and the government must show lots of interest in protecting people’s life at every point in time. By so doing, our economy is safe in terms of some reckless losses. Another thing the government can do is to include safety as part of economic indices; it should be part of the annual budget. If the federal government considers the health safety sector, it will create millions of job opportunities in the country. Unfortunately nobody is talking about it at the federal level.

Is Hybrid in partnership with a government agency?

Yes, we are in partnership with the Lagos State Government. As CEO of Hybrid, I was one of the consultants that worked towards the establishment of the Safety Commission in Lagos State. Presently, we are principal consultants to the commission. We presently have a project by an international institution based in Germany sponsoring a project to develop Nigeria in operational health and safety and that contract was awarded to Lagos State Safety Commission and Safety Advocate, which is an NGO that Hybrid is also one of its founders. We have been to fifteen Lagos State-owned primary schools to train the teachers on health and safety, first aid; and also donate safety materials to the students.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a qualified safety practitioner and consultant with about eighteen years experience in occupational health, safety, environment & project management administration, operations, training and consulting for clients in the oil and gas, construction, power and energy, manufacturing, institutions and other industries. In addition to a master’s degree in environmental management and post graduate certificate in Industrial Hygiene management from Columbia Southern University, I am an alumnus of Harvard School of Public Health, USA; London School of Business Finance, UK, Lagos Business School, and more. I am the Managing Consultant/CEO of Hybrid Group Limited, a one-stop shop for safety and allied services, with five independent but service-related companies operating across Nigeria, Ghana, UK and the US.

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