Category: Randoms

LOOTing to Stay Safe

LOOTing to Stay Safe

Assuming you came expecting some grand pontification on the egregious tradition of looting public funds, let me extend an apology for the unexpected deception. This is an article about staying safe at work. Now that I have been forgiven, I hope you would learn a thing or two from the following paragraphs.

This article stemmed from a safety briefing I delivered to a group of work colleagues. I had chosen a topic: “Risk Myths & Your Safety”, and wanted to structure my PowerPoint presentation to yield maximum effect. Achieving this required a blend of some existing knowledge about occupational health and safety, additional research, and my management consulting experience.

We begin by considering a fundamental question. Who is ultimately responsible for your safety at work?

Your employer may be directly and vicariously responsible for your safety, but ultimately, the buck stops at your table. As Kina Repp would assert: “You are your last line of defence. It boils down to you”.

I came across an interesting survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which showed that 88% of polled HSE professionals stated that workers consider safety important, yet 51% of the same professionals agreed that workers’ attitude is a major barrier to workplace safety. How can workers consider safety important yet contribute to an unsafe workplace? I tried to rationalise the seeming discrepancy by focusing on five myths that I believe are contributing to unsafe practices by employees.

Myth #1: The Doubting Thomas: “There is no risk here!”

This employee takes no action because he cannot understand that there are hazards associated with a given workplace, process or operation.

Myth #2: The Invincible: “I know it is risky, but it cannot affect me!”

In Nigerian parlance, this employee belongs to the “It’s not my portion” congress. She sees the risk but believes her case is different; yet when disaster strikes, she may blame “village people” as being after her.

Myth #3: The Nerdy Believer: “I am safe because engineering controls are ultimately adequate to protect me!”

This employee sees the latest safety devices installed and believes this means he has nothing to worry about, forgetting that 100% reliability is usually an illusion.

Myth #4: The Humanist: “I am safe because my colleagues will always obey safety regulations!”

This employee is confident in her colleagues following the rules, whereas examples abound of safety incidents caused by employees that cut corners or have a lapse in judgement.

Myth #5: The Corporate Believer: “I am safe because our organisation has safety policies and protocols in place!”

This employee sees his company’s safety policies and protocols as proof that all is well despite evidence that the existence of such frameworks is meaningless without diligent adherence and enforcement.

Having looked at the foregoing myths, the question that arises is how to exorcise these myths in the workplace. This is where LOOTing comes in.

L – LEARN about health and safety at work. Adequate knowledge tends to dispel myths, so if we learn, we place ourselves in a position to dispel baseless fables and assumptions of invincibility.

O – OBEY safety regulations and protocols at work. If we have a mindset to align with regulations issued by our employer or a regulatory agency, we would be less likely to entertain myths that promote noncompliance.

O – OBSERVE your workplace to note hazards and warning signs. If we look around, we are likely to identify hazards and see reasons why we should align with HSE best practices as opposed to embracing unfounded myths.

T – TALK about safety issues with colleagues and superiors. This would allow us get clarification on any unclear issues, and also influence our colleagues, knowing that a colleague’s actions or inactions can put us at risk of injury or death.

At the end of the day, safety consciousness boils down to whether we want to end up injured or dead, or want to return to our families and enjoy a long, hopefully, fulfilling career. Asides ourselves, we also need to consider that if we selfishly embrace myths, we may cause harm to others, even if we were to somehow escape unhurt.

Without prejudice to the obligations of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to combat financial malfeasance, I ended my presentation by advising the audience to “Forget EFCC; LOOT to stay safe.”

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When A Friend Gets COVID-19

When A Friend Gets COVID-19

The year 2020a had scarcely began when America took out a top Iranian general and Iran unwisely took down a Ukrainian passenger airplane with 176 lives. While the world tried to come to terms with the risk of increased chaos or even World War III, 2020a was quickly cast aside by news that 2020b had begun with a new illness springing out of some hitherto “unknown” place in China. In the numerous months since the year 2020b started, we have seen name changes from “Wuhan Coronavirus” to “Chinese Coronavirus” to “SARS-CoV-2” and the most infamous of them all, “COVID-19”. This seemed to be an event in a distant land, until the first case in Lagos, and then someone close contracted the virus.

As I was getting ready to log off my church’s online service on Sunday, 22 March 2020, my phone suddenly rang. Who could be calling me this early on a Sunday? A glance at my phone screen showed a friend, XY was the caller. I quickly asked XY what must have triggered them to call at this time, and they began admonishing me to take good care of myself. XY told me they had recently returned from the UK, felt unwell within a few days, contacted the Government of Nigeria, whose officials collected samples. XY’s test results came out positive days later and XY was admitted at an isolation facility in Lagos. After XY and I finished speaking, I decided I had to give procrastination the middle finger and write an article I had been considering for some time.

The previous Thursday, while cases of COVID-19 were rising in Lagos, my firm had informed employees that we may have to work from home from the coming week. By the next day, as confirmed cases increased, the firm instructed all of us to stay home until further notice. As I headed back home that evening, I thought about the situation in Nigeria and our preparedness for the pending pandemic. If I did not have any power to change Nigeria’s fate, I could at least try to keep my family and close persons off the victims’ list, especially since we have quite a number of senior citizens in the family.  

Despite the apparent efforts of the National Centre for Disease Control / Federal Ministry of Health, one telephone call with my parents in Port Harcourt was enough to confirm the information silos prevalent in Nigeria. While Lagos gets somewhat prepared for a shitstorm, I was shocked to find out my own State Government was doing little to get Rivers residents aware of and prepared for COVID-19. Apart from the nationally-mandated closure of schools from Monday the 23rd, the Rivers State Government (like most other State Governments) did not seem to think that this was a crisis that needed preparing for. It’s as if each state is waiting to confirm a case before starting any preventative measures and beginning serious public awareness campaigns.

The refusal to move quickly is irresponsible and foolish. For the avoidance of doubt, that a state does not yet have a “confirmed case”, does not absolutely mean that COVID-19 is not present in that state. To get a confirmed case, you have to test a person, but with limited testing facilities, one has to have credible symptoms before being tested. Those who have travelled from high-risk countries are merely asked to self-isolate until symptoms show. In addition, even persons with symptoms but without any risky travel history may seek treatment for a different illness, and worst of all, a carrier of the virus may not have any symptoms but can reliably transmit it to others. Why then are more State Governments not making practicable moves to protect their people?

Still talking about information silos, I had cause to speak with a random Lagos resident and decided to quickly gauge her knowledge of COVID-19. Shockingly, at a time when over 20 cases had been confirmed in Nigeria, this lady boldly told me there were no more cases in Nigeria, that she heard all those with the virus had been healed. It appears the recovery of Nigeria’s index case, the Italian male, had been misunderstood by this lady (and possibly many others) to mean that the disease had been eradicated just as Ebola was banished in 2014. My fear is that if a young, educated Lagosian thinks COVID-19 is not longer a problem, what would the uneducated pepper seller at Ajegunle think? Clearly, information from official sources is not reaching the nooks and crannies of Lagos, and this would affect any proclamation about social distancing.

Back to my friend who used to have COVID-19, I advised them to keep their spirits up and begin logging their experience in a daily journal, until like the Italian they are declared free of the virus, so they can someday tell the story of how they  beat COVID-19. I am confident that XY will beat it, regardless of the poor state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria. It’s instructive how COVID-19 has gone from some distant disease to something personal. You can spew all the data you want about the number infected globally, mortality rates, age-adjusted risk, etc., but when a friend gets COVID-19, you realise the data is now human.

Stay safe. Stay updated. Follow guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.  

Image Credit: Sky News

Counting the Cost of Lagos Traffic

Counting the Cost of Lagos Traffic

Having to catch a first flight out of Lagos, I had to hit the road by 5am to ensure I got to the airport in time to avoid hearing stories that touch the heart. As the cab driver got on the expressway, I could not help but notice that the roads were already busy at that time. While the driver and I discussed about the traffic situation, I thought about my experience spending unnecessary time commuting to and from work. Luckily, I do not need to leave for work at 5am each day; however, for many Lagosians, leaving after 5am increases their odds of getting to work late.  

Continue reading “Counting the Cost of Lagos Traffic”
When Privilege Comes Knocking

When Privilege Comes Knocking

“Count your blessings, name them one by one;
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done”

The quote above is from a popular Christian hymn, “Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman Jnr, however, fear not; this is not a proselytising article. The hymn just kept ringing in my head as I picked up my laptop to compose this article. I’m typing this article at the twilight of Good Friday 2019, influenced by four key events from the receding week.

Continue reading “When Privilege Comes Knocking”
Once Upon a Time in Ife

Once Upon a Time in Ife

“When I found you, I found somebody who cares”

Bebe Winans (I Found Love)

Where do we start from to tell the story of two persons who would have never imagined they’ll end up together? The story begins with a certain Jonah delivered from the fishes of the Atlantic Ocean and sent five hundred kilometres away to a land warmly called Great Ife. Two years later, a certain Anuoluwapo made a similar journey howbeit from a bubbling convergence point north of the Niger. These two persons would go on existing in the land of Oduduwa blissfully unaware of each other.

Continue reading “Once Upon a Time in Ife”
One Emergency Away from Doom

One Emergency Away from Doom

On Friday, 23 November 2018, a seven-storey building under construction in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, collapsed. With conflicting figures being bandied about, one sure point is that there were a lot of persons in that building when it collapsed because that day was a payday for workers and suppliers. As at the time of writing this article, ten days later, many persons, dead or alive are still trapped underneath the rubble.  Continue reading “One Emergency Away from Doom”

Metele: A Fork in History?

Metele: A Fork in History?

It is no longer news that Nigeria got screwed in the week of 18 November 2018. This article was triggered by a grievous tweet. My country just lost over 100 trained soldiers in one week. That’s enough to upset me.

Continue reading “Metele: A Fork in History?”

The Societal Imperative

The Societal Imperative

While reading The Real Warren Buffet by James O’Loughlin, I encountered the concept of the “institutional imperative” as espoused by Warren Buffet. Contained in one of Buffet’s shareholders’ letter, he defined the concept as “the tendency of executives to mindlessly imitate the behaviour of their peers, no matter how foolish it may be to do so”. Months after reading that particular section, I encountered a scene that made me recall Buffet’s words.  Continue reading “The Societal Imperative”

Something to Think About

Something to Think About

“There is so much that people take for granted”

— Vivienne Westwood

What does it mean to take something for granted? Does it mean to decide something is not worth being bothered about or not even remembering to think about something? A recent chat with a friend made me think about something few persons even bother about—online security.  Continue reading “Something to Think About”