As the world marks the 2014 World Population day, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon has drawn the attention of all to the need for “Investing in Young People”, which is the theme of this year observance.
As an occupational and public safety practitioner I believe that there are many ways to invest in young people and investing in their safety and health is one of such ways. In what ways can individuals and corporate organizations invest in the safety and health of young people?
There are young people in every section of society. They originate from the family unit to learning institutions and from learning institutions to various industries. How do these three sections of society invest in the safety and health of young people they have?
The family unit: The family unit hosts millions of young ones in Africa who are either still going to school or helping in a family business. Parents and guardians can invest time in training and mentoring their young ones as they prepare for bigger careers in the world stage. The home environment must be safe from physical and psychological hazards. Simply put families must ensure that the home environment is a healthy one which promotes safety, opportunities for social integration, and the ability to predict and/or control aspects of that environment. The family unit must ensure that it does not allow an unhealthy environment that threatens safety and causes conflicts, that does not allow family ties and interpersonal relations, that is abusive or violent.
To bring about the above mentioned healthy home environment, there is need for parents and guardians especially to invest some resources in terms of time, finance, etc and the positive effects will be seen in the life of the young people and in society at large.
The School Environment: As mentioned elsewhere there is great need for investment in the safety and health of young people in the school environment by the learning institutions and governments. The unfortunate scenario in Nigeria and most parts of Africa is that school safety has never gotten the deserved attention. That is why in various parts of Nigeria school structures are raised without necessary safety considerations.
Aside some untrained and old looking security men in some schools, schools including tertiary institutions do not care about employing safety officers. With regards to training for pupils, students, teachers and administrators, nothing serious is being done especially with lack of relevant legislations and very poor enforcement by government. From my observation and interaction with some school teachers and administrators it reveals that there is a dearth of safety knowledge in the school environment.
For example, the Federal Ministry of Education of Nigeria’s Implementation Guidelines on National School Health Programme stipulates the minimum standard for health and safety requirements for schools in Nigeria. Yet visits to various schools in Nigeria will tell you that implementation of these guidelines is still at a very low stage. This article is therefore a wake-up call for Governments and Private School Owners to invest in school safety and health by implementing recommended guidelines effectively and by extension protecting the population of young people who are in school at all levels.
Investing in the Young Working Population: The International Labour Organization (ILO) says: “Decent Work is Safe Work.” Young people work in every industry in the world. Because of their strength and vigor they are mostly sort after in almost every industry. Within the industries they work, young people are exposed to various hazards that affect their safety and health. For example in the manufacturing industry where I currently work, young workers are exposed to various forms of hazards due to the various production processes they work in. Some of these hazards include exposure to toxic fumes, dusts, rotating machine parts, heat, chemicals, etc.
For this reason companies must invest in the safety of these young people so that their future is not jeopardized. Truth is that research has shown that investing in the safety and health of workers by conglomerates is easier than by SMEs in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. The reason for this is clear. For the conglomerates they are more established and have to comply with international requirements. But for SMEs, they are local and they operate in very challenging environment with very poor government support. SMEs in Nigeria struggle to get various resources especially finance.
For this reason they see the cost in investing in safety and health more than the benefits. Nonetheless, without people no enterprise can function. This is the more reason why companies whether bigger corporations or SMEs must make provision for the safety and health of all workers and by doing so, they will be investing in the many young people working with them.