The federal government says 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases annually, while additional 374 million suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents globally each year.
Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, stated this while commemorating the 2019 World Day for Safety and Health at Work on Tuesday in Abuja.
The World Day for Safety and Health at work is celebrated globally on April 28 with the 2019 theme as adopted by Nigeria as “Safety and Health and the Future of Work’’.
Ngige said these statistics are alarming and the economic cost was enormous, unquantifiable and tragic.
“This is considering that such immeasurable human suffering and catastrophes caused by poor occupational safety and health practices and conditions are largely preventable,” he said.
Ngige, represented by William Alo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, said government has taken measures toward promoting safe and healthy future of workers.
“You can attest to the fact that technological advancement including digital technologies, artificial intelligence, robotics nanotechnology, and increasing automation is becoming more common in the workplace and machines are now attempting to take over the role of humans.
“In a renewed effort at addressing changing patterns and emerging risks in workplaces, the government has embarked on measures in ensuring safe, healthy and decent work for all.
“Government has also embarked on measures to promote a culture of prevention through various workplace interventions that include the vigorous enforcement of extant labour laws through conduct and factory inspections of workplaces, nationwide.
“In addition, employment patterns and structures are shifting with the introduction of new forms of employment such as outsourcing, contract staffing, and a host of other non-standard forms of employment.
“All of these now present various threats and challenges to the safety and well-being of workers which must be addressed by the future of work,” he said.
He, however, said the ministry had encouraged effort of stakeholders toward effectively rising to the transformation challenges and opportunities posed by rapidly advancing technologies which revolutionised occupational safety and health concerns.
He added that the evolving world of work today and in the future, undoubtedly called for innovative investments in labour as a major factor of production, through continual learning and skill development.
Ngige said Nigeria, as a member of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), had joined the annual awareness-raising campaign since 2004.
This, he said had focused on the magnitude of work-related accidents, injuries, diseases and deaths and contemporary remedial approach through a preventive safety and health culture at work.
He assured that the ministry would continue to develop and subsequently, review policies, legislative and regulatory framework that were critical to achieving sustainable improvement in safety and health standards in the workplace.
Denis Zulu, ILO Country Director to Nigeria, noted that Nigeria has been consistent in commemorating the World Day for Occupational Safety.
“It is an important day for us in the ILO, because we are commemorating 100 years of the ILO and it gives an opportunity to see how much progress has been made in safety and health.
“I must admit over the past few years, we have made tremendous progress around policies and we have also made progress towards having an updated law that reflects the changing environment in the world of work.
“We are delighted that the government is taking this issue very seriously but also the presence of the private sector, trade unions is particularly important.
“This is because health and safety in the workplace is not just the responsibility of the government but also the employers and the workers who are actually around the workplace,”’ he said.
Ifeoma Anyawutaku, Director, Occupational Safety and Health Department in the ministry, said that it was the ministry’s mandate to ensure safety and well-being of Nigerian workers in their workplace.
“It is our mandate that nobody goes to work to meet his death or get harm or sustain injuries in the course of doing his or her job.
“So, the federal government under the Ministry of Labour and Employment is doing so much particularly in enforcing standard, laws and regulations by guaranteeing the safety, health and well-being of every Nigerian worker in their various workplaces.
“In addition to enforcement, we are involved in promotional activities and rising awareness to ensure that every worker knows those hazards they are exposed to and to also ensure that every worker knows what steps to be taken,‘’ he said.