THE Federal Government will soon begin to issue certificate of safety to factories and workplaces, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has said.
Speaking while paying on-the-spot visit to the Inter Corp Limited gas plant owed by Chicason Group in Nnewi, Anambra state, the Minister said operating petrol stations and gas plants would also require a certificate of safety from the department of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) of the ministry of labour and employment alongside the license by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
This comes as the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) said every employer that are yet to enroll their workers on the Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) would begin payment from July 2011 except for companies were established after the July 2011 commencement date.
Ngige said: “Actually, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) issuing licenses for the building of petrol stations and gas plants is not enough. The Department should also be issuing a safety certificate from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment. From now on, no DPR license will be valid unless there is a certification from the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) department of the ministry. The ministry is also planning monthly inspection of factories to ensure compliance. We can do that because we have offices in all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja.”
The Minister highlighted the urgent need to strengthen the OSH department for it to ensure occupational safety in the workplace throughout the country.
He hinted that the NSITF and OSH would embark on aggressive factory inspection from the second quarter of the year
His words: “From the second quarter of this year (2016), the ministry would embark on aggressive factory regulation activities aimed at ensuring that factories are up to date on their responsibilities in terms of safety of workers. Both the NSITF and occupational safety and health department will enforce the laws guiding safety in the workplace.
Enforcement of rules and regulation is not against any employer but to ensure there are no areas of lapses and punish offenders who are not wiling to do the right things.”
While sympathizing with the company over the loss of its properties and loss of two lives, the Minister expressed happiness that the loss of lives is not as high as was previously reported.
Dr Ngige directed the company to send a full report on the incident to his office for to enable government study what actually transpired at the gas plant saying the preliminary report presented to his ministry is not enough.
The Minister, who underscored the importance of firms and companies’ enrolling their workers on the ECS, explained that ECS provides an umbrella under which workers are covered in case of occupational hazards.
“This unfortunate incident has also brought to the fore the need for all employers of labour to enroll all their workers on the Employees Compensation Scheme (ECS) administered by the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF). I understand that most of your other companies are participating in the scheme but this one that suffered this incident is not. We are happy none of your workers died in the fire outbreak but those who are injured are supposed to be rehabilitated by the NSITF,” he said.
On his part, the Managing Director of NSITF, Abubakar Munir, said every company that has workers on its payroll is expected to register such workers on the ECS.
He added: “Every firms and companies operating in Nigeria are expected to register its workers on the ECS. Those who are registering now will have to pay in arrears starting from July 2011 when the scheme started except new companies that started operation after that date. Our major concern is that whether in peacetime or not, all employers have a duty to register all their workers on the scheme. It is very unfortunate that this incident happened at the point that the gas plant was about to be registered on the scheme.
All the other companies under the group have all registered except this one.”
Speaking earlier, the managing director of Chicason Group, Linus Ilozue, who lauded the Minister for personally visiting the gas plant, said two people lost their lives in the incident.
There were only one woman, one man, our auditor and another one of our workers that were affected in the fire incident. In all, four people were injured are receiving treatment in the hospital. There were also two deaths in the incident,” he explained.
He also noted that the impacts of the fire outbreak were minimal because of high level of safety checks that were put in place by the firm.
We have water sprinklers installed on top of the gas dispensers. We have borehole not too far away from the gas plant. Indeed, water was sprinkled the morning that incident happened because it was hot that day. It is not correct to say that that incident occurred because there was no water sprinklers or that we do not have water sprinklers,” he said.