GRASSROOTS SAFETY DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE (GSDI)
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The Grassroots Safety Development Initiative (GSDI) is a project from Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON) Rivers State Branch to drive safety improvement beyond the workplace. Over the years, every effort on safety development has been channeled mainly to the industrial sector to protect workers and assets against hazardous exposures. While this has continued to pay off as various organizations continue to drive improvement in their safety performance, the safety culture within the larger public is not a thing to be proud of. This is evident in the number of accidents observed in recent times from domestic, commercial and other public activities. Unfortunately, majority of these accidents go unreported. For example, a fatal accident occurred in Eliozu community in February 2022 where three young people were killed by a perimeter fence that collapsed during a regular community football match. This was hardly noticed, let alone investigated.
In the organized private sector, such incident would receive necessary attention to prevent reoccurrence. The sad reality is that the public records more accidents and fatal injuries than the workplaces in Nigeria.
According to statistics available online, death rate in Nigeria is growing at an annual average of 1.24%, with a reported cases of over 2,350 thousand cases in year 2020 (Knoema.com)
Based on historical data from the United Nations and the World Bank, Nigeria has one of the highest death rates in the sub-Saharan Africa. This is not far from factors relating to the overall poor safety performance among the population.
Apart from loss of lives, there is also huge loss of properties and money due to non-industrial accidents. The Guardian (September 3, 2021) reported that Nigeria lost about NGN41.54B in two years due to market fires between 2020 and 2021. To emphasize the prevalence of this fire menace, the Guardian continued that “hardly a month passes by without reported case(s) of fire incident, especially from public places such as markets…”
The Katsina State government in year 2021 gave over NGN247m to support victims of the Katsina central market fire while the Rivers State government pledged NGN500m to support victims of Sokoto market fire in the same year.
Evidently, this pattern is not consistent with the goals of sustainable development, knowing that development cannot subsist on a deteriorating safety culture. A careful analysis will immediately reveal the direct relationship between safety improvement and sustainable development.
Talking about Rivers State specifically, the recent increase in fire accidents is also worthy of urgent attention to reduce the many accidents that occur on daily basis from domestic sources, commercial, schools and other public places.
Our findings revealed that there are several interrelated factors responsible for the current situation of public safety challenges in the State. Some of these include ignorance of hazards, risks and basic control measures, poor safety orientation, poor safety perception and attitude, lack of public safety standards and regulations, and poverty. The impacts are enormous, especially in an economy like ours.
To address these concerns, the Rivers State Branch of ISPON has considered it a noble cause to champion this GSDI project and drive safety improvement beyond the workplace in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. The project will be in two phases. Phase one will focus on safety education and strategic public awareness which will help achieve a change of perception, orientation and attitudes. Phase two will be focused on in improving emergency services in the State.
2.0 Aim and Objectives of the GSDI
The aim of the project is to promote safety development to the grassroots in Rivers State.
1. To provide safety education and orientation to the general public, strategically covering the young and elderly population in Rivers State.
2. To drastically reduce the rate of accidents from domestic, commercial and other public activities in the State.
3. To promote safety development in the universities, polytechnic, colleges of education and other higher institutions of learning.
4. To support small and medium scale establishments in providing basic safety training for their team.
5. To train first responders (for fire and first aid) who will be able to take the right actions and decisions at the critical times of emergencies.
6. To improve emergency services in Rivers State.
Our short term targets for the initiative between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2025 (Phase one) include:
1. To provide safety education and orientation for at least, 500,000 people in Rivers State.
2. To provide fire blankets for 10,000 people in the State.
3. To empower 200 safety ambassadors across the various local governments and high institutions.
The project implementation strategies will include the following:
1. Town hall meetings in different communities and local government areas.
This will provide the opportunity to engage directly with the people at the grassroots, to discuss their safety needs and educate them as necessary. Where possible, the preferred language for this people will be in their local dialects. We understand that the choice of language is a strategic decision in this category as it can determine the effectiveness of the exercise.
2. School safety program.
This will include safety training for students in various institutions. As well, we will organize debates and essay competitions in which winners will be rewarded to arouse the interests of the students.
3. Public announcements will be made to invite small and medium scale establishments for scheduled training sessions which they can attend free of charge.
4. Fire blankets will be donated to selected participants in number 1 and 2 above, to help them fight small fires at homes and in student hostels.
5. Further safety information will be circulated through billboards, media houses and social media platforms.
5.0 Financial Requirements
The project is estimated to cost NGN35m annually or a total of NGN105M over the first phase of the project ending in April 2025.
6.0 Measuring Results of the Project
Results will be measured based on the set targets and objectives.
1. In the local governments and high institutions, safety volunteers and ambassadors will be recognized among the people. These will act as safety officers and help gather progress reports.
2. The Institute will also develop a portal where people in Rivers State can give feedbacks on safety development to further enable us track the improvement.
7.0 Cost Benefit Analysis
At the moment, the cost of fire accidents alone from markets is estimated to be at least, NGN41B between 2020 and 2021, or NGN20B annually. Though, the real estimate of financial losses in Rivers State was not accessible at the point of drafting this document, nevertheless, the cost may not be less than NGN500M annually based on available data. This is exclusive of fatality and other injury cases, as well as the psychosocial impacts, among others.
These costs can be avoided or reduced drastically through the budget of NGN35m per annum, or a total of NGN105m between May 2022 and April 2025, covering the first phase of the project and leading to a cost saving of at least, NGN450m per annum.
This investment will also have a long lasting effect on the people of Rivers State, contributing to their safety, health, socioeconomic wellbeing and sustainable development.