The Managing Director of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Mr. Adebayo Somefun, has said that there was an urgent need to enhance working conditions in Nigeria in respect of occupational safety and health.
Delivering a keynote address on Occupational Health and Insurance at the annual conference/ annual general meeting (AGM) of the Society of Occupational and Environmental Health Physicians of Nigeria (SOEHPON), he called for the need to improve employment injury coverage for all workers in all sectors of the economy.
Despite the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) statistics that indicate about three million deaths annually arising from work place hazards, he was saddened that statistics from Global Programme Employment Injury and Protection (GEIP) shows that less than five per cent average of the labour force in Nigeria and other African countries are covered by law for employment injuries through mandatory social insurance.
His words: “African statistics are low and appalling. If voluntary social insurance coverage and employer liability provisions are added to the five per cent mandatory social insurance, only 9.4 per cent of the labour force thus becomes covered by the law.
“This is largely owing to the lack of, or, and the inadequate enforcement of legislation, if any, in many countries. In Nigeria, employers and employees are not yet conversant with the inherent Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) benefits in relevant legislations and the Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010.”
Earlier in her welcome address, the national president of SOEHPON, Dr. Effiem Jackson Abbah, said that the annual conference/ AGM affords members the opportunity to update their collective scientific knowledge and skills, exchange ideas, build networks, foster collaborations and uphold the vision of the society.
SOEHPON is the umbrella body of physicians that work not in hospital but in companies, and is tasked with the protection of workers at work places.
The president said this year’s theme: “Occupational Health and Insurance” was predicated on the need to explore the nuances of health insurance in general and workers compensation in particular, in recognition of the persistent hazards inherent in work environments that continually expose workers to danger that invariably leads to injuries and occasional fatalities.
Her words: “The theme of this year’s conference is Occupational Health and Insurance; Nigeria as a country has recognized that it is important for employers to have an insurance programme for their workers. So, every employer is expected and strongly encouraged to register with the NSITF and remit a premium to them. Such premium is used to take care of workers who are either injured or who die in the course of their work.”
Abbah added that creating awareness about health insurance and improving accessibility to workers compensation was at the end of the spectrum in protecting workers’ health.
To improve on the numbers of Nigerian workers protected by insurance, the NSITF MD called on all employers of labour to register with NSITF, adding that, “any condition that impacts negatively on health and which is due to a work accident or occupational disease, and the incapacity to work and earn, whether temporary or permanent, total or partial, must be covered.”