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Think Safety First Before Security

INTERVIEW –Ayodele Kehinde is a safety engineer and the Chief Executive of Dele Autos in the UK. In this interview with FinIntell, Mr. Kehinde shares from his wealth of knowledge why businesses, especially those operating in Nigeria need to consider safety first before security like it is observed in developed societies.

You live and work in a society that prioritises safety. What would you say is the attitude of Nigerians towards safety?

Poor attitude I would say. Nigerians are more interested in security than safety. Many people think when we talk safety we are actually talking security. People cannot separate security from safety and they spend so much time talking about security, thinking the two are the same.

We hear people say safety first but most of the times safety is what we put in the background while we constitute all our efforts on security. Most Nigerians when they build their homes, when they go on the street, when they buy their cars, they are very security conscious. Security in terms of nobody should still my car or burglars should not break into my house. And we think when we do that we are thinking safety; but that is not safety.

Safety is about doing things that will prevent harms to you whether it is caused by you, intentionally or unintentionally. Let me try to separate safety from security by saying security is preventing external hazards; that is protecting yourself against external hazards in terms of things that can cause harm to you that are not under your control. For instance, armed robbery is something that can harm you that you do not have control over. But when you are talking safety, these are things that you do or fail to do that can actually harm you. For example, ordinary water on the floor may look inconsequential. But if you fail to clean it, your son who was playing football outside and not aware that there is water on the floor, could steps in and slips, hits his head against something then ends up in hospital.

…Safety Is Prevention

The way we set up structures, handle businesses, and build our homes have shown that we pay more attention to security than safety. You will notice that a lot of people die more in the homes due to fire accident. Why is that happening? It is not only because people are not safety conscious but because they are so security conscious that they turn their homes into prisons. They forget the safety of their family who will live inside the homes and only think about their security.

In Nigeria, everywhere house is burglar-proof; windows burglar-proof, doors burglar-proof. Even the doors will have about four locks. So when there is fire at night and everywhere is covered with smoke, you’ll be there struggling to get out while you are already inhaling carbon monoxide. And no human being alive can survive carbon monoxide for 15 minutes. So as you inhale the carbon monoxide you are disoriented; you do not even know where the key is. Before you know what is happening people are trapped. They will scream and cry for help but they will not be able to get the help because they are trapped inside the house.

What categories of safety measures do we have?

Safety has different stages. We have the preventive safety which is the one that is proactive; looking ahead before the problems come. Then we have the reactive safety which responds to problems.

In Nigeria, our safety stage is the reactive stage. Only few organisations know what safety is all about. They are the people that go all out to look for things that can possibly cause problem in the future; may be ten years time. They look ahead and make sure that they are prepared for it. Look at the emergency preparation in Nigeria in case of fire accidents; look at the streets –you will not see any water hydrant like it is visible here in every street of United Kingdom or other developed countries.

People blame firemen for insufficient water supply during crisis forgetting that there is a limit to what a water tank can carry. I am yet to see anywhere in other parts of the world where firemen carry water to fight fire. It does not happen anymore.  We blame the wrong people. Abuja that is a new city does not have water hydrants anywhere. What people do around the world is preventive safety so that in case there is a building on fire, the firemen just need to bring their truck and connect their hose to the closest hydrant point to have access to unlimited water supply to fight the fire.

…Safety Is Thinking On Hazard Prevention

Hazards will always be there. But safety is thinking on how to prevent the hazards from becoming accidents; because if there is no accident there is no harm to anybody. Unfortunately, we all think about the accident all the time but not on how to prevent it from happening. For example, look at the training motorists get in Nigeria. How many of them know that every tyre has all the information required on it?  How many Nigerians understand and can interpret the information written on a tyre? Government must invest to educate people on television, radio, newspaper and all other media platforms. There are basic educations that can be passed to the people without necessarily spending much. The problem about safety is that with just one single error you may not have a second chance. And that error may be due to ignorance.

…Lessons From Europe

In Europe, there is what is called corporate homicide law which helps check safety at work place. With corporate homicide law, directors and supervisors of a company can be sued to court for death within the workplace. Also in Europe, lawyers who take up safety cases are not allowed to charge the petitioner any money. Instead, it is the defendant who will pay the lawyer of the petitioner alongside his or her own lawyer. And there is time-bound of 90 days for safety cases which discourages delay in justice.

What Is The Way Forward?

Nigeria must have a safety council at the national level that will be able to set policies and standards for Nigerians. We should also have safety executives in all fields of life that will enforce the policies that have been generated by the council.

Another challenge of safety is its hierarchy in various organisations. The hierarchy of safety in many companies is so low that a safety officer does not have a say in management. In developed countries, we have safety directors who are on board of directors. Safety is a very honourable profession around the world. But in Nigeria, safety personnel are usually casual workers.

Building constructions should also be checked to ensure safety standards. People should not build balconies and erect burglar-proof there. They don’t know that balcony is not just meant for relaxation but mainly as a rescue point in case there is fire. In Nigeria, people think of security first before safety.

Every house most have fire extinguisher. And there are different types of fire extinguishers for different fire. It is necessary people know this so that they do not kill themselves in the process of fighting fire. No fire starts as a conflagration that is why fire extinguishers are important at homes because they are meant to fight small fire before it turns to conflagration. We should always note that most fire starts from the kitchen. That is why we should also have what is called fire blankets close to our kitchens and the house in general. Although fire blankets are not fire-proof but they can resist fire for about five to 10 minutes. Fire blankets are good in case you need to escape walking through a fire.

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