who is responsible for workplace safety

There’s been quite a debate about who should be held responsible for safety at the workplace. And buck of the blame and responsibility lie on the employer.

Gross negligence of employees’ right to a healthy and safe workplace is a key, yet underplayed issue in Nigeria’s corporate culture. Despite the constitution of Nigeria having several legislations that protect these rights, most important of which is the Factories Act of 1987, most employers still fail to consider these safety issues in the workplace, due to lack of implementation. There are numerous causes of workplace hazards and means to avoid these hazards and stay safe at the workplace lie in the hands of both the employer and the employee.

Some safety hazards that could be encountered in the workplace, according to Safetyline Lone Worker, include: “Anything that can cause spills or trips such as cords running across the floor or ice; anything that can cause falls such as working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area; unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts that a worker can accidentally touch; electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring; and confined spaces.”

Another issue that could obstruct workplace safety include violence at the workplace (including verbal abuse, sexual harassment, bullying, and physical harm), allowing visitors into the workplace premises also puts the employer liable to the safety of such visitors and this should be catered for on the same level at which the employer caters for the safety of the employees.

The first step an employer should take in ensuring that the workplace is safe for the employee is by conducting a thorough hazard assessment of all work environments and equipment. An employer of labour needs to ensure that safety policies meet the global Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) standards; while working with governmental and non-governmental bodies responsible for ensuring workplace safety. The employer also has to ensure that:
  • Workers use all equipment in a safe and proper way;
  • The workplace is kept in good shape at all times;
  • First aid is made available and at easy reach;
  • Information, training, and supervision are made adequately available; and
  • Employees adhere to safety policies.


Workers, on the other hand, should take the following measures to ensure they and their colleagues stay safe in the workplace:
  • Follow the safety policies in the workplace;
  • Understand the risks at your job and be proactive in avoiding these risks; avoid work-related stress like working long hours, misunderstanding with colleagues and bosses, heavy workload and job insecurity;
  • Call your employer’s attention to anything that hurt you or someone else;
  • Act safe and responsibly around dangerous situation, equipment or materials;
  • Use safety equipment and follow safety procedures required for your job;
  • Take breaks at intervals to avoid wearing out; avoid alcohol or drugs;
  • Know your rights as a worker; and
  • Talk about any concerns you may have about your safety with the department or individual responsible for this.


Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, earlier in April, made a declaration that about 2.8 million workers “die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases annually,” which is equivalent to the total population of Namibia, half of the population of New Zealand, or about one-third of the population of Kano state. Although the Minister gave no data on the specifics for Nigeria, demonstrating the level of disregard to the subject matter in the country.

Therefore, the government, through the legislative arm, needs to enact relevant and current legislation that meets the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), that will cater for the safety and health of the workforce, being the fuel of the economy. The Ministry of Labour and Employment on its own end, needs to pay more attention to the safety and health of workers establish bodies that can adequately implement these legislations so as to ensure employers adhere to them; and also issue penalties to organizations that fail to cater for the safety and health if their workforce.
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