FG, ILO commit to empowering MSMEs to improve occupational safety

According to him, the ILO estimates, every year over 2.3 million women and men workers died at work  from an occupational injury or disease leading to a loss of four per cent of the global GDP.

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The Federal Government says it is committed to empowering Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), to improve occupational safety, health working conditions and hygiene in the country.

Mr Festus Keyamo, Minister of State, Ministry of Labour and Employment said this during the inauguration of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) document on Wednesday in Abuja.

The document was tagged, “ Action Checklist on Occupational Safety and Health in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria’’.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Action Checklist is a practical training tool of the ILO Participatory Action-Oriented Training methodology (PAOT) to assist participants identifying good points and improvement points

The programme was organised by the ministry in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation(ILO).

The minister, represented by Mrs Lauretta Adogu, Director, Occupational, Safety and Health Department in the ministry said that most MSMEs operating in the informal economy lacked social protection.

According to him, the ILO estimates, every year over 2.3 million women and men workers died at work  from an occupational injury or disease leading to a loss of four per cent of the global GDP.

“Over 350, 000 deaths were due to fatal accidents and almost 2 million deaths were due to fatal work-related diseases.

“In addition, 313 million workers were involved in non-fatal occupational accidents causing serious injuries and absences from work, while estimates show 160 million cases of non-fatal work-related diseases occur annually.

“ These estimates imply that work-related diseases represent the main cause of deaths at workplaces, killing almost six times more workers than occupational accidents.

“This highlights the need for a new paradigm of prevention: One that also focuses on work related diseases, not only on occupational injuries, ’’he said.

Keyamo also said that the MSMEs were vital to the economic development of a growing economy due to their dynamism, efficiency, faster decision-making processes, and tendency for innovation.

He added that Nigeria, which is one of the largest economies in Africa, has over 37million MSMEs, this account for more than 84 per cent of the total jobs in the country.

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Keyamo also  said that the MSMEs contribute about 50 per cent of the nation’s GDP, according to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.

He said the health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown measures led to the closure of many organizations nationwide.

Keyamo said that in spite of the negative impacts of the pandemic, many businesses were able to identify opportunities along the lines of creating new products and services, expansion and diversification.

The minister, therefore, said that the need for healthcare and hygiene products including sanitisers, face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment had created job opportunities for many Nigerian workers.

“ It is generally acknowledged that a safe and healthy workplace protects workers from injury and illnesses.

“It also reduces economic losses associated with ill health and accidents as well as boosts productivity and employee morale at work.

“Hence, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Occupational Safety and Health Department actively ensures the safety, health and welfare of workers.

“This is protecting them against hazardous working conditions through monitoring and enforcement of the basic provisions of the Factories Act CAP F1 Laws of the Federation nigerria, 2004,’’he said.

Keyamo also said that in recent times, the promotion of MSMEs has been a key area of intervention for the ILO as they were vital to achieving decent and productive employment.

He added that over the last 25 years, the ILO had developed and implemented effective delivery mechanisms to improve Occupational Safety and Health and overall working conditions and productivity in MSMEs, including the informal sector.

“The Ministry is not ignorant of the challenges to productivity among MSMEs in both the formal and informal economies and acknowledges the need for a better understanding of the peculiar OSH situation.

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“This is in order to proffer practicable solutions and mechanisms for achieving safe and healthy work environments,

“Therefore, the ministry, in collaboration with the ILO is committed to empowering entrepreneurs, managers, workers and/or farmers to improve occupational safety and health working conditions.

“This is through a systematic identification of occupational hazards and strengthening MSMEs to manage workplace risks through best practices and acceptable risk control measures,’’he said.

Keyamo, therefore, commended the efforts and contributions of the ILO for the realisation of the essential risk assessment tool that would also serve as a training guide to improve workplace health and hygienic conditions in the country.

He added that the inauguration of OSH Action Checklist would add immense value to the overall performance of MSMEs while improving their safety and health culture.

The ILO Country Director to Nigeria, Ms Vanessa Phala, said that the COVlD-19 outbreak revealed a huge gap in operationalising OSH across the globe.

Phala, represented by Mrs Chinyere Emeka-Anuna in ILO Abuja Office, said there was pressing need to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as to support the competitiveness MSMEs

According to her, Nigeria and the United Nations system devised a project aimed at strengthening the capacity of local MSMEs and manufacturers to produce high-quality PPEs and healthcare-related products.

“The project, jointly implemented by ILO, the UNIDO, the World Health Organisation (WHO), others  supports the capacity of Nigerian MSMEs and manufacturers to meet both domestic and foreign demand.

“The component of the project has a particular focus on capacity building in the areas of OSH, business development, financial services, and decent working conditions.

“Promoting safety and health at work among these and other enterprises can be an important contribution in ensuring a decent and productive work environment.,’’she said.

Phala said that  successful enterprises were at the centre of strong economies and sustainable societies.

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She added,”they create employment and raise living standards. While MSMEs employ a large proportion of the workforce, they also tend to have higher rates of work-related accidents.”

The ILO boss said that through the project, the ILO had been able to support MSMEs to build and strengthen a culture of occupational safety and health.

Phala said:“To further support and strengthen the MSMEs on OSH, ILO supported the ministry to develop and validate the Action Checklist for MSMEs in Nigeria.

“This serves as a tool to support MSMEs in upholding the culture of OSH in their enterprises and training manual to support trainers that will facilitate this culture.

“We have also documented some OSH improvement practices which some MSMEs have carried out following the trainings that they received through two improvement workshops held in Lagos and Abuja.”

Also, Mr Smart Oyerinde, Directior- General, Nigeria Consultative Association (NECA), commended the ministry and ILO for initiating the programme.

Oyerinde, represented by Mrs Nike Ajala, NECA Abuja Liaison Officer, said that the MSMEs sector contributed 46.31 per cent to the country’s GDP and accounted for 96.7 per cent of businesses.

He said this was as stated in 2022 report jointly released by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

“Even before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, MSMES often faced considerable challenges to provide decent work.’he said.

Oyerinde added that it was also unfortunate that they also bore the brunt of the fallout from the pandemic.

He also said that several of them were forced to close, thus leading to a negative effect on investment and growth of businesses and contributing to the high unemployment rate in Nigeria.

Oyerinde said the inauguration of the documents would provide guide for MSMEs to uphold OSH best practices in their enterprises, as well as support respective government parastatals, among others.