Monday, 30 October 2017

Dynamics of Consultancy: Achieving Success as a Consultant

Dynamics of Consultancy: Achieving Success as a Consultant

Moving from a paid employee to a professional consultant can be profitable and enjoyable but can also be frustrating with several challenges.  Successful consultants know there are many challenges that they have to deal with and they develop the right qualities to make them succeed in consulting.

These qualities are essential if you must succeed as a consultant and as many successful consultants already know, being successful in consulting is never by chance but by developing the right set of qualities which I would be discussing and like the word of one of my favourite authors, Steven R. Covey, if you want to achieve your highest aspirations and overcome your greatest challenges, identify and apply the principle or natural law that governs the results you seek.

Having worked as a consultant for appreciable number of years, I realised clients would typically approach consultants for two reasons, mainly  because the client expects the consultant to have more expertise than the organization’s internal resources or simply because the clients do not have sufficient time to solve their own problems or implement their own projects. 

This then mean to be successful as a consultant, your level of knowledge is a key success factor. Firstly, your level of research knowledge should be broad enough to find solutions. You also need to remain current by reading professional journals, magazines, informative websites and networking with fellow consultants. More importantly, you should know how to apply theory into practice and be skillful in using appropriate tools and techniques such as softwares and guidance documents to function efficiently in the job.

Secondly, maintaining professionalism at all times will keep you on track and enhance your chance to succeed. It is essential that you keep a professional relationship with your clients and keep in mind that they are paying for the services. They therefore expect you to discharge your work in a professional manner. Consultants sometimes become so familiar with their client that they start exhibiting employee attitude in their role. You need to avoid this as it often leads to negative task result.

In addition, the power of branding and reputation are two qualities that must never be ignored if you must succeed as a consultant. A brand goes further than the simple features of the product to create a unique image. For instance, a black coloured sport shoe is only a black shoe, but by placing a Nike brand on it, buyers have the perception that the black coloured sport shoe is of higher quality. Unique branding helps a product to stand out in a competitive market. So, you have to brand yourself with distinct features from your competitors. The modern day concept of “brand” encompasses not just the qualities of products but how customers feel about those products. So, your personal brand is not the same as the real you, rather it is based on what people think about you and their assessment of your expertise, your work, and character. Your brand is powerful enough to open or close business doors.

We all know how Coca Cola will taste like. So your customers should know what to expect from you at all times. The quality of your service or product should always meet customers’ satisfaction and requirements.  Your ability to deliver a consistent quality product or service to a client would strengthen their business relationship with you and help build their confidence in you. Like the popular advert, “if no be Panadol, e no fit be like Panadol”- once you successfully create a distinct brand for yourself, your customers will always be loyal to you and seek  your service irrespective of the availability of other consultants in your field.

Furthermore, you must protect your public reputation above every other thing. It is always very difficult to build a damaged reputation, so you don’t want to go through the costly process of repair. This is why to be a successful consultant, integrity, accountability, responsibilities and excellent ethical behaviour should be part of your core values and must be put to practice always. You also have to be selective about the clients for whom you work. In the course of your practice, should you encounter circumstances or contracts where the client require you to discharge your duties in an unethical way, it is better you walk away from such contracts rather than having your reputation damaged.

Understanding the appropriate certifications and professional membership requirements for your area of specialty in your country and ensuring you meet the requirements for both is vital to your success. For instance, a practicing health and safety practitioners in Lagos State may need to register with Lagos State Safety Commission, ISPON, NISE and if servicing clients within the oil and gas sector, it might be necessary to register with OGTAN and get a DPR license. Likewise, it would be beneficial for a practicing health and safety practitioner in the UK to work towards meeting the eligibility criteria for inclusion into the Occupational Safety and Health Consultant Register, OSHCR.

The web-based register aims to assist businesses in finding advice on general health and safety management and being in the register gives you the advantage of visibility to businesses for advisory services. Also, businesses are assured that you have met your professional body’s code of conduct and you are committed to providing sensible and proportionate health and safety advice, hence, increasing your chances of being engaged by businesses for health and safety advice.

Additional advantage of gaining the necessary certifications and professional membership is that it gives you competitive edge during bidding and promotes sustainability. There have been cases where a consultant contracts has been suspended because the necessary registration with the needed institutions has not been done. 

Likewise, maintaining your continuous professional development (CPD) and attaining the right level of membership of your professional institution are key to your success.  As a consultant, CPD helps keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date. It also ensures that the professional standard of your services are high and maintained.  Additionally, it builds your confidence and credibility in the presence of your clients. For example, when you maintain your CPD and attained the Chartered Member of IOSH, you're entitled to use the designation Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner and the designatory letters CMIOSH.  This increases your chance of success as a consultant, as employers know that when they work with a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner, they're dealing with someone who's at the top of their profession.

Businesses and employers are already well used to working with and hiring Chartered professionals. They recognise Chartered status as shorthand for 'best in class' and they know they'll get the highest professional standards from a Chartered individual. So, you would most likely be well positioned for business relationship and opportunities including opportunities to compete with other professionals. You would have the advantage of building positive relationship with your clients and gaining their trust as a consultant.

More also, you need to improve your soft skills if you must succeed as a consultant These skills  include social graces, communication abilities, language skills, personal habits, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork and leadership traits. . In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find professional skills that matters more than these. Hence, these are skills you need to succeed as a consultant and essential in creating a long lasting relationship with your clients. As a consultant, your technical ability can make you perform a task but will never be sufficient to keep you on the job. Thus, consultants should have excellent oral and written communication skills and should be able to communicate their opinions effectively.  You should be able to demonstrate a team player attribute and exhibit good judgement when confronted with a problem and should make decision based on facts without being too quick to jump into decisions when offering solutions.  Time management is also key to a consultant success. You should consider adjusting your work style to accommodate your project requirements especially when confronted with pressure to maintain high quality within specific time and budget constraints.

Another critical element to your success is knowing what to charge your clients. As you invest in business equipment and marketing, you must commit time to compute what you will charge your clients. Deciding on a fee rate for your consultancy services requires you to consider factors like arithmetic, competition, expertise and industry so as to avoid some of the mistakes inexperience consultants often make such as setting rates that are too low, thereby making it difficult to raise in the future. There are several guidance documents and article online on how to set consulting fees. You should research on them and set consulting fees that does not put you at disadvantage. Example is the wikiHow article on How to set consulting fees.

In addition to setting the right fee structure for your consulting services, you need to establish a payment policy both for your services and terms for cancellation. You must make it clear before you begin any work as these would help prevent conflicts with your clients because they would have the opportunity of understanding the cost ahead of time. Subsequently, before you start any job, get a signed contract as to what you will do, what the fee will be and when payments will be made.

Finally, self-discipline and setting high standards of excellent performance in area of your consultancy business and continually striving to get better are essential qualities you must possess to succeed in this changing world. Clients are frequently seeking high quality services within tight deadline and limited resources. For you to provide satisfaction, you therefore require self-discipline and extra committed hours of working.

In summary, besides all the qualities discussed above, if you plan to succeed as a consultant, you must be prepared to discipline yourself and put in extra hours of hard work required to meet your clients’ satisfaction.

Written By:     Engr. Kayode Fowode, CMIOSH
      Managing Director,
                     Kevron Consulting Limited


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Church building collapse, a clarion call for duty holders.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, that building construction is a high risk activity that must be effectively controlled by building owners and effectively regulated by the government. This was the first paragraph in my article titled, “Averting building collapse in Lagos State”, published in Punch Newspaper and dated April 12, 2016.

I am sure if building owners, and more importantly, principal contractors and designers who are responsible for the design and construction of buildings are mandated by the relevant regulatory bodies to work in compliance with established construction specific health and safety legislation and penalized upon contravention of such, catastrophic incidents like the collapse of the new church building of Reigners Bible Church during a special service on Saturday, December 10, 2016 attended by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel with a large entourage comprising his deputy, Mr Moses Ekpo and many senior officials of the state government would have been averted. Unfortunately, the catastrophic incident left several worshippers trapped with many dead and many more injured. According to the News Agency of Nigeria, the church’s iron rafters caved in during the consecration service of the Founder of the church, Apostle Akan Weeks, as a bishop. Though the police are yet to give a figure to the fatalities involved, eyewitnesses said they counted not less than 50 bodies as published in Punch Newspaper dated, December 10, 2016 while The Sun Newspaper estimated the number of worshippers that died as 100.

While this is being extensively discussed at the IOSH-Nigeria Informal Network Group and Safety Advocates Group, as expected, there has been various reactions as well by the State and Federal Government to this incident but then it is worthy of note that this is not the first church to have collapsed in Nigeria and as such, it is obvious that the State and Federal Government is not doing enough to prevent this type of incidents and this is rather disappointing. Once again, it is a reminder of the six-story building (guest house) collapse belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) at the Ejigbo area of Lagos on September 12, 2014, in which 116 persons, mostly South Africans, lost their lives. Going by the number of fatalities recorded within the first two days of the Uyo Church collapse, we might be having a higher number than was recorded at SCOAN.

How many more Nigerians do we expect to die of church building collapse before government takes appropriate holistic action to address its reoccurrence? Does this then mean life is cheap in Nigeria? What steps are being taken at the State and Federal levels to reduce such incidents in religious buildings? What Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Bill is applied to religious buildings and the Church trustees? What specific OSH Law is directed towards enhancing safety in construction? What measures have been put in place to review and act upon the various comments, articles and professional advice that were offered after previous similar incidents in the past?  It is obvious we are yet to learn from past Church building collapses.

Every year, a number of accidents occur in churches, church halls, churchyards and grounds. Not only does this cause fatality but also pain and suffering to those people who are injured, it has often resulted in serious disruption to the smooth running of the church and its various activities. Looking at the records of fatalities that have resulted from buildings collapse in Nigeria, it is obvious that collapse of religious building produces more casualties due to the huge number of people assembled at a particular time especially during weekly church services. 

Those in the field of occupational safety and health know that risk is a combination of probability and consequence. Hence, the risk of fatality is inevitably high in a situation of high probability of huge number of worshippers during service when combined with the consequence of the building collapsing. This is not rocket science and it is expected that the Church Trustees and /or Leadership should know better and live up to their health and safety responsibilities. They  have to be sure they have done everything to minimise the risks to church members, workers and visitors, and that everyone knows what to do if anything goes wrong.

Health and safety legislation applies to all places of religious worship centers. Therefore, Church Trustees or Management have a duty of care to ensure the safety of anyone who may visit the church, hall or churchyard for any purposes. These include paid employees, voluntary workers, regular members of the congregation, visitors and contractors who may be working on the buildings or in the churchyard. In case of gross negligence on the part of the church owner, trustees or management in discharging their health and safety legal obligations, then the regulators must hold them accountable for their actions irrespective of their religious affiliations or personal standing within the society.

 Also, the injured person has the right to a claim against the church for damages in a civil action if he is able to successfully prove that the church owed him a duty of care; that the duty of care was breached; and that the injury was as a result of the breach.  In addition, criminal prosecutions may be brought against individuals as well as the Church Council or Trustees by the health and safety enforcement agency. For instance, where a building has collapsed due to engagement of incompetent designer, contractors or inadequate allocation of sufficient time and resources for planning and organization of the church construction due to time constraints to meet up an organized church event deadline, then the owner of the church or management should be held liable for compromising the safety of church worshippers for their own benefits.

This is a clarion call to Church owners, Trustees of Churches, and the management of religious worship centers that accountability for health and safety lies with them, as it does to any other public building owner. This is a stewardship responsibility that must be taken seriously and pastorally motivated as Church members, visitors, hirers of the hall, employees and volunteers all need to be kept safe, whilst the Church carries out its worship, mission and ministry.

Where a Church has embarked on a building project, the Church’s leadership commitment to safety must be visible and safety should be a core value. The Church leadership must show this commitment by appointing competent principal designer and contractors, allocating sufficient time and resources at the planning stage of the project as well as providing relevant information to all persons/contractors on the project. Also, the Church should be able to provide evidence that a contractor/ subcontractor’s safety history and performance was considered during pre-qualification and not just costs or religious affiliations, beliefs and membership status with the Church. In addition, Church owners or Management team should have a good understanding of health and safety standards in addition to their conventional training received in pastoral school.   Safety is not simply common sense. Hence, the need for owners of religious worship centers to acquire basic HSE competency by undergoing training on the applicable regulations, hazards identification, and how to lead safely including dealing with emergencies. 

Like I said in my previous article, the government must look into a sustainable strategy by enacting a proactive construction specific health and safety legislation in addition to building regulation.The regulations should identify all duty holders within a building construction project and clearly stipulate individual legal duties ranging from the building owners to the designers, contractors, subcontractors and other persons involved on the project. The law should apply to the whole construction process on all construction projects, from conceptualization to completion. For example, in the case of the Uyo building collapse, the client is the Church Owner and the regulation would place a duty on the Church trustees or owner to make suitable arrangements for managing a project, including making sure other duty holders are appointed as appropriate and that sufficient time and resources are allocated onto the project.

Furthermore, government building regulatory officers must now work closely with religious worship centre owners and other commercial building owners including designers, contractors and project planners to determine the most effective risk management strategies before a project begins and while it’s being built. It is important that an initial assessment is carried out by the building regulators at the pre-planning stage of a Church building project since every project is first built on paper. Safety begins with pre-planning, therefore, the regulatory agency must check that the methods to be used for the building construction is understood at the pre-planning stage and confirmed to be safe right from substructure, superstructure to fit out. They must ensure that controls to mitigate any foreseeable risks are integrated into the health and safety plan and request evidence from the Church that the appointed designer, when preparing or modifying designs, has taken all reasonable measures to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction, use and maintenance of the Church’s building.

Lastly, when it comes to safety, nobody works alone. It is a joint responsibility. Thus, all parties should be held accountable right from the Church head to the regulators who should have taken reasonable steps to give professional advice and where need be, exercise their right to serve prohibition notice before a catastrophic incident happens. This also applies to churches that occupy shared premises where there is a need to ensure effective collaboration of the occupiers and their landlords towards protecting lives and property.

Written By

Engr. Kayode V.  Fowode CMIOSH, M.CSSE, MNSE 
Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner
Managing Consultant 
Kevron Consulting Limited 
8, Olanrewaju Street, Off KudiratAbiola Way, Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria 
Tel: +234 13424578, +2347084152143, +2348182170991 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

How to Protect Bankers and Finance Workers from Occupational Safety Problems.

Having read a report about a staff of FCMB, Olisa Nwakoby, who committed suicide, as stated in page 5 of the Punch Newspaper, dated, Monday, August 1, 2016, I feel this should be a wakeup call to both the banking and finance industry that effective health and safety management system protects lives and goes beyond having a safety policy on the walls of a building.
Although investigation is ongoing, nonetheless, I would like to make reference to a statement by the Acting Group Head, Communications and Brand Management of the FCMB Lola Egboh as reported in Punch, “The suicide had nothing to do with the bank, and that the bank would have come to his aid if it was aware that he had emotional challenges”.
While we cannot at this stage hold the bank accountable until a thorough incident investigation has been completed, nonetheless, we must not shy away from reminding the institution of their health and safety responsibilities of identifying workplace hazards such as work-related stress, bullying, aggression and violence that generates psychological symptoms like guilt, agoraphobia, loss of confidence and thought of self-harm etc. Thus, workplace incidents can have a long lasting effect on an employee that extends beyond the employees’ working hours.
For any organisation to ensure so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees and effectively manage the health and safety risks associated with their operations, they must integrate a robust health and safety management system within their business, promote the implementation of risk control strategies, demonstrate top management commitment together with adequate planning and implementation of effective in-house safety and health programmes that support employees’ wellbeing.
Like other business sectors, the banking and financial industry have statutory responsibility to provide a safe place of work.  Banks must therefore protect their workforce against occupational injuries and ill health and should develop good practices that may serve as benchmark for other financial institutions.
It is no doubt that both the banking and finance industry seek to build up capital gains and eliminate losses as much as possible. Since employees are valuable assets, injury at work and ill-health of an employee may lead to loss of working days, or business opportunity. Even worse, it may affect corporate image.
In this regard, I have highlighted some specific health and safety risks that must be adequately managed in the banking and finance sector in order to prevent business losses, reputation damage, employees’ turnover, high illness rate, suicide, stress, violence and aggression, bullying, fire, poor housekeeping etc. Although, most of the employees in these sectors work in a relatively stable environment, there is no doubt that they are also exposed to some significant risk of bodily injury and ill-health. The common occupational safety and health problems that they may encounter in their daily work and corresponding precautionary measures are explained in subsequent paragraphs.
Workers in both banking and finance sector are exposed to varying occupational health and safety issues such as  workplace violence(from aggressive customers), bullying, psychological stress from struggling to meet marketing targets, unresolved bad loans, attending to crowd of customers, physical exertion from prolonged work hours and of course ergonomic issues etc.
For instance, bullying if not prevented can pose serious health and safety concern. Bullying can be described as unfair, offensive, intimidating or insulting behavior intended to undermine ,humiliate or injure someone and examples of bullying behavior include constantly criticising competent staff, removing responsibilities from them, or giving them trivial task, shouting at staff, persistently picking on people in front of others or in private, blocking promotions, regularly making a person the butt of jokes, setting up a person to fail by overloading them with work or setting impossible targets etc. In addressing bullying at work, management must watch out for symptoms of bullying at work which may include anxiety, high blood pressure, loss of confidence etc.  Similarly, management should have a clearly defined policy on ’Anti-Bullying Behaviour’ and ensure this is enforced across all line of management. Workers should have a means of reporting bullying behavior if they feel they are at risk of being bullied or are being bullied.
Secondly, aggression and violence are one of the hazards associated with working in the banking or financial sector. Work-related violence occurs when someone is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. Violence which includes verbal abuse, threats or physical attacks can come from fellow workers, managers or customers of the bank. For example, bankers who close at unsocial hours are vulnerable to attack and violence by miscreants while tellers who handle money may be a target to criminals and customer care workers may be subjected to aggression by an unsatisfied customer. It is therefore vital that the bank management provide adequate training and information to help employees identify the early signs of aggression so as to enable them avoid it or deal with it.  In addition, introducing changes to the way the team works such as making sure marketers keep in touch when they are out of office for marketing or on a visit to a customer. A system for reporting, investigating and monitoring any instances of violence must be set up and clearly communicated to staff members and everyone should be informed about the psychological symptoms of aggression and violence  like irritability, anxiety, stress, loss of confidence, and thought of self-harm etc. Staff must be trained to watch out for such symptoms and report quickly where such behavior has been frequently noticed.
Again, stress is a common hazard that must also be controlled and effectively managed. Stress is an individual’s reaction to excessive pressure and other demands placed on them.  You would agree with me that while pressure can keep a staff motivated, too much pressure causes stress. Some of the work-related stress factors to bankers are excessive work demand, fear of failure, bad loans, bullying, poor job design, financial worries etc.  Stress can have psychological, emotional and behavioral effects on workers leading to depression, frustration, aggression, high blood pressure, loss of confidence etc. This is why management must recognize this hazard and establish a policy for managing same. Workers should be encouraged to identity potential problem areas and sources of stress in connection with their job and report them. Also, management must have access to a competent health and safety advisor to help address the six key areas of demands, control, support, relationship, role and change associated with work design. In addressing the wellbeing of the workers, regular health talks should be held. This would help in improving workers' confidence in management and freedom to express occupational health concerns. Blood pressure checker that can be placed in a free place where employees can easily use. This will provide quick and easy information as opposed to relying on occasional hospital visits.
Once more, mechanical hazards resulting from the use of the vault, shredder, file compacta etc. must not be disregarded. The vault is where customers’ valuables are kept and it offers tight security but at the same time poses a possible lock-in hazard to the bank employees. Setting up a strict entry / exit accounting system or making use of biometric check technology such as infra-red, heat detection systems are some feasible and effective means to prevent the lock-in hazard. Also, shredders consist of revolving cutters located behind the machine casing. Without proper guarding, the operator’s finger may slip through the feed opening and get hurt by the revolving cutter. Likewise, loose clothing or long hair of an employee operating the machine can easily be dragged into the slot and entangled by the revolving cutter. The dangerous part should be effectively guarded with a transparent plastic sheet to help reduce the feed opening of the shredder to its minimum size. In addition, file compacta poses trapping hazards to employees standing in between the moving cabinets of the compacta. Therefore, implementation of a good engineering control as well as administrative control such as installation of suitable locking system for moving cabinets or the use of drop bars and posting of warning tags at each cabinet so as to inform the workers outside the aisle of the possible presence of others.
One of the common hazards bankers are exposed to is fire. The common causes of fire in the banking and finance sector are smoking, over-heating of electrical appliances and bad wiring. Combustible materials such as carpets and curtains commonly used in a bank can be easily ignited by burning cigarette ends or overheated electrical appliances and wiring. Thus, it is necessary to ensure proper connection and use of electrical appliances of sufficient capacity and correct rating to prevent electrical fires. Also, a sound policy of “No-Smoking Workplace” must be implemented to prevent fire and health hazards. Overloading of electrical appliances must be discouraged. Hence, connection of many plugs to one socket outlet must be prohibited to prevent overloading which is a potential cause of electrical fire.
Furthermore, adequate training and fire drills must be arranged by management for staff members so that they become familiar with the evacuation procedures in case of a fire and well aware of the location of all the exits and the emergency procedures. The fire evacuation plans should be displayed at prominent locations on each floor within the banking hall together with illuminated exit signs to ensure safe evacuation in emergency situations. Likewise, sufficient fire-fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers, hose reels, etc. should be provided on each floor without obstruction.
Another common hazard in both sector is noise. Some activities within the bank occasionally generates noise levels that may seriously impair the employees' hearing or affect concentration and efficiency. This may arise from coin counting machines, banknote counting machines, pin-writers and old model fax machines. Nonetheless, this hazard can be controlled by engineering control, for instance, by ensuring the automatic banknote counting machine are held inside a separate room to contain the noise emitted by the pneumatic bank-note delivery system. In addition, the walls of the room housing note counting machines should be fitted with noise absorbing material to reduce noise level and an acoustic booth can be used to isolate noisy equipment such as the above pin-writers and an old fax machine. Buffer material should also be mounted in the chute of a coin counting machine to reduce the contact noise arising from coin counting process while workers operating the machine must be mandated to wear hearing protectors.
Poor housekeeping is another hazard that must be managed since it could result into slips and trips. Poor housekeeping can arise from wandering cable, folded or loose carpet, littered papers and folders, poorly arranged materials around working areas etc. However, a policy on good housekeeping and its implementation would help in eliminating tripping hazards.
Similarly, poor ergonomically designed work station pose a risk to workers. Teller workstations should be ergonomically designed to enable them work comfortably and efficiently. There should be arrangement for rest breaks and job rotation and counters should not be designed too deep so as to prevent fatigue, strain to arm and shoulder, improper working postures which may arise from stretching to receive items from customers. Risks from other equipment like computer workstation used at the counter must be adequately controlled. A large number of staff in the banking and finance industry use computers for long periods every day. Poorly designed computer workstations, repetitive keying motion and static working postures can cause eye strain, muscle aches and general fatigue. As well, staff engaged in phone banking, FX dealing, programming and data input may be exposed to potential health problems caused by prolonged computer operation. Hence, the need for management to assess the risks to those who normally work with computers for long periods and adopt control measures accordingly. For example, monitor should be placed directly in front of the user and adequate desk surface should be provided. Likewise, sunlight reflection on the screen should be avoided by repositioning the monitor or by using blinds. As regards ergonomics, it is important that banks include ergonomics training and assessment programme in their health and safety management. Such program should allow for provision of right equipment for each employee following a detailed ergo assessment of the individual and his workstation and that includes lighting issues. It should also include a system for reporting and following up on issues of discomfort arising from workstation design. Employees should be trained periodically on ergonomics awareness and each department assigned an ergo contact who may as well be a volunteer staff from within the department.
Additionally, ultraviolet lamps also pose a risk to workers. Ultraviolet lamps are often used to check signatures or identify counterfeit notes. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light should be avoided. As good practice, ultraviolet lamps should be suitably shielded and placed far from the hand position. In checking signatures or notes, tellers should keep their hands at least 50 - 75 millimetres away from the center of the lamp.
Also, manual handling operations such as transporting heavy equipment or coins can result into strain and sprain to the arms, shoulder or back. It is therefore important to first assess the operational risks and then try to reduce them. Consideration should be given to avoidance of manual handling operations, and where impossible, the risk should be reduced.  Mechanical aids or team lifting should be used to minimize risk and staff should be properly trained on Manual Handling.
Lastly, for management to successfully implement the recommendations stated in this article, they must have access to competent advice, either by recruiting a Health and Safety Advisor or engaging a Health and Safety Consultant that would offer competent advice to management on specific areas of concerns and in the implementation of the organization’s corporate health and safety agenda and management system. Likewise, Induction programmes for both new and existing staff should cover health and safety management and not just soft skills development, marketing, accounting and loan recovery etc.
Written by:
Engr. Kayode V.  Fowode CMIOSH,M.CSSE, MNSE
Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner
Managing Consultant / CEO
Kevron Consulting Limited
8, Olanrewaju Street, Off Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
el: +234 13424578, +2347084152143, +2348182170991


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Bespoke Gas Powered Generator, a Silent Killer.

I have read with keen interest the various adverts on the street of Lagos and on social media by generator repairers about the economic advantages that an adapted gas powered generator (AGPG) offers to members of the public and end users. Surprisingly, sensitization of the public on the risks the AGPG pose to end users appears to have been ignored. I am preview of the opinion of some of my professional colleagues in both the Safety Advocates group and IOSH-Nigeria Informal Network Group on the use of AGPG, however, I wish to express my personal opinion, in support of the argument that the use of AGPG is unsafe and has high potential of causing serious injury.

Many have argued that a gas powered generator runs in open well ventilated space, and may be considered to pose relatively lower risks of fire, if the prescribed safety precautions from the sellers are followed during purchase. Some have even compared the technology to cars with CNG gas offering the advantage of cleaner fuel.  However, producers of these items do not have clear, established safe working methodologies and measurable performance standards to guarantee the safety of the AGPG.  The gas powered generators, now gradually gaining acceptance in the market are made from petrol or diesel generators not originally designed to run with gas, which means the producers of the AGPG are unable to communicate the safe operating procedure of the item to the end users via manufacturers’ instruction manual since they are locally constructed by unlicensed generator repairers with no adequate knowledge and understanding of the potential hazards of working with gas cylinders, their use, handling and transport.

It is therefore, dangerous for regulators like Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and any other government regulatory agencies that promotes safety in Nigeria to allow the use of AGPG as I envisage a high rate of incidents arising from its use except a thorough study and understanding of the product technology, guidelines, legislation and standards for its construction and usage are sufficiently developed to guarantee users safety.

We must not wait till a catastrophic accident happens before we take action because the gas generator is an accident waiting to happen. Our housing set up, safety culture, competency level of our present generator repairers and level of emergency response cannot accommodate the use of such unsafe mechanism. How would this generator fit into a densely populated area like Lagos Island, Mushin, Ajegunle and other areas across Nigeria with multi-tenanted housing unit arrangement, locally called “face me, I face you”. Also, considering the inexperience of most generator technicians and /or artisans, and the maintenance procedure applied by the technicians, the potential for static electricity to be generated cannot be overruled, thereby increasing the potential for fire outbreak in event of a gas leakage.

In industrial environment where gases are used, appropriate precautions are put in place such as gas detectors; alarm systems together with continuous risk assessment to guarantee the safety of the workforce and ensure gas leakages are quickly identified and rectified. This is not the case in most Nigerian homes as occupants rely on their sense of smell to detect leakages, which cannot be completely relied upon.

Also, I have pondered over the following questions which I believe the regulators should address before approving its mass production- Does the present design takes consideration of the principle of design? That is, design out significant hazards? I am not convinced this has been achieved.  In addition, why would the cylinder be external to the generator? Why not consider a system that requires no hose connection. Does the design consider how vibration, noise and usability by an average man without safety knowledge affect its safety? Is the generator design with automatic shut down system where a leakage has been detected? Can the generator be designed to enclose cylinder? Etc.

While the concept of innovation and cost saving should be appreciated, it is important that the safety of the masses is given high priority with the designer justifying that all reasonably foreseeable risks arising from the use of the generator has been designed out to guarantee a safe product including addressing all questions raised above. Moreover, these locally produced gas powered generators are adapted from the conventional petrol or diesel powered generators. Hence, do not have the requisite safety features imputed from the design stage rather people with no knowledge of the dangers involved  in the use of LPG cylinders are being used to convert the carburetor of generators  that were built to run on petrol or diesel to gas. This is unacceptable and should never be encouraged. SON in collaboration with Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC) and other regulatory agencies with interest in this area should critically review the safety of this locally produced device before we start losing lives.

Surprisingly, some have claimed it is safe since LPG cylinders are often used in kitchens in most Nigerian homes. However, just because many Nigerians used gas cylinders in their kitchen does not mean it is safe.  The idea of using gas cylinders for cooking in kitchen is long avoided in developed countries because the use of gas cylinders at home for cooking is not safe either. In most developed countries like UK, gases are supplied into homes just like the way water is supplied to aid cooking. Thus, eliminating the risk of cylinder usage and storage. Consequently, maintenance of gas connections and pipes into homes are done by registered gas installers (CORGI) and it is unlawful to engage unlicensed gas installers to carry out maintenance or repair works at homes in developed countries like UK.

So, our present ways of using cylinders at homes is not best practice either and would not offer reassurance of the safety of an adapted gas powered generator. In fact, the petrol or diesel generators are not designed to run on gas. So, a modified item against its designed intent simply in itself sends a message that greater caution and study is required.  For instance, using a long hose connection from the LPG cylinder to the generator in a densely populated building only increases the chance of damage to the hose, access to children and unauthorized persons, exposure to adverse weather condition, contact with physical items that may cause damage etc.

More importantly, the item comes with the associated risks and hazards of handling gases such as potential  to asphyxiation, burn, fire, explosion, hose damage, uncontrolled release of gas, valve and regulator thread damage, leaking gas cylinder, inappropriate storage, toxic and corrosive attributes of gas contained in cylinder, unsecured and unrestrained gas cylinders, inappropriate connection of equipment, inexperience user and incompetent installer, incorrect hose connections, faulty flash arrestors, poor maintenance , etc. This therefore means users of items involving the use cylinders requires adequate training, guidance and understanding of relevant legislation, codes of practice and applicable standards on gas cylinder safety to reduce the potential for a catastrophic incident. This is obviously an unacceptable risk that should be eliminated now or we would be sacrificing the lives of innocent Nigerians who rely on government and HSE Practitioners for guidance and risk communication to the public.

Written by:
Engr. Kayode V.  Fowode CMIOSH,M.CSSE, MNSE
Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner
Managing Consultant
Kevron Consulting Limited
8, Olanrewaju Street, Off Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
Tel: +234 13424578, +2347084152143, +2348182170991

Friday, 8 April 2016

Building Collapse, a Safety Concern in Lagos State.

Building construction is a high risk activity that must be effectively controlled by building owners and effectively regulated by the Government. The construction industry remains a dangerous business, accounting as one of the major causes of fatalities in Lagos State.

Over the years, Lagosian have witnessed consistent building collapsed leading to fatalities, litigations, regulatory actions, pains, injuries, delayed schedules, bad reputations and loss of properties  etc. Last week (March 8, 2016), a five-storey building still under construction at Horizon 1, Lekki Gardens, Ikate, Lagos collapsed killing 35 people. This of course is a reminder of the six-story building (guest house) collapsed belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) at the Ejigbo area of Lagos on September 12, 2014, in which 116 persons, mostly South Africans, lost their lives.

As expected, there has been various reactions by the Lagos State Government to these incidents. The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, dismissed some affected officers indicted of negligence under the Public Service Rule 040401.

It is of utmost importance that persons in position of authority within the parastatals in charge of building control discharged their duties professionally and where a breached in duty by a government officer has been identified, appropriate disciplinary actions must be taken as shown by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Nonetheless, we must also be aware that issuing of authorised building permit and sacking of officials due to negligence is not sufficient to guarantee reduction in building collapse in Lagos State. We must now begin to look into a sustainable strategy by enacting a proactive construction specific health and safety legislation in addition to building regulation. Lagos Sate government must now shift from solely traditional compliance to building permit to a more robust and sustainable construction health and safety management.

The regulations should identify all duty holders within a building construction project and clearly stipulates individual legal duties raging from the building owners to the designers, contractors, subcontractors and other persons involved on the project. The law should apply to the whole construction process on all construction projects, from concept to completion.

 A good reference would be the Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 in the UK which clearly states the duty holders on construction project and placed legal obligations on them to ensure that construction is carried out safely in United Kingdom. For example the regulation places a duty on commercial clients (Owners of the building construction project) to make suitable arrangements for managing a project, including making sure other duty holders are appointed as appropriate and that sufficient time and resources are allocated onto the project.

The Regulations aim to make sure the building construction project is safe to build, use and maintain and offers good value.  This regulations does not nullify the UK Building Regulations but rather emphasised the importance of safety in construction. As any builder knows, projects start well before ground is broken. Therefore, safety should be part of the building process right from the very start.
In working toward establishing a safer workplace and promoting building safety, government building regulatory officers must now work closely with building owners, designers, contractors and project planners to determine the most effective risk management strategies before a project begins and while it’s being built.

For health and safety to be taken seriously on a building project, the client’s commitments must be key and visible. Safety must start with the building owner or client and should be their core values. The clients might show this by appointing competent principal designer and contractors, allocating sufficient time and resources at the planning stage of the project as well as providing relevant information to all persons/contractors on the project.

When it comes to safety, nobody works alone. Therefore, designers (Organisations or individuals who as part of a business, prepare or modify designs for a building, product or system relating to construction work) engaged for a building project in Lagos State must ensure that when preparing or modifying designs, consideration is given to eliminating, reducing or controlling all foreseeable risks that may arise during construction, maintenance and use of a building once it is built.

It is important that an initial assessment is carried out by the building regulators at the pre-planning stage of a building project since every project is first built on paper. Safety begins with pre-planning, therefore the Lagos State Building Regulatory Officer (LSBRO) must check that the methods to be used for the building construction is understood at the pre-planning stage and confirmed to be safe right from substructure, superstructure to fit out. The LSBRO must ensure that controls to mitigate any foreseeable risks are integrated into the health and safety plan and may require evidence from a client that the designer has taken all reasonable measures to eliminate, reduce or control foreseeable risks that may arise during construction, maintenance and use of the client’s building once it is built. In addition, the LSBRO should be visible on site and should have the legal backing to be able to use his discretion to require from the contractor on site a copy of the construction phase plan.

Also, the client should be able to provide evidence that a contractor/ subcontractor’s safety history and performance was considered during pre-qualification and not just costs including provision of contractors’ HSE requirements to subcontractors during competitive bidding.

Safety is not simply common sense. Workers need to be trained on the applicable regulations, hazards identification, and how to work safely including how to deal with emergencies. All these would help improve hazard spotting and reporting amongst the workforce. Hence, where a worker has recognised a substandard material or equipment to be used on the project that has potential to cause collapse of the building during or after construction, the worker as a result of his training would be able to raise alarm and/or report such to a nominated person within the project team who would then take appropriate action.

More also, the Lagos State Government should have a list of registered HSE Consultants who would have gone through an accreditation process for ascertaining their construction health and safety qualifications, sector experience and ability to offer competent advise with a minimum of 3 years practical experience on building construction.  This will ensure that those who offer advice to duty holders have a good understanding of building construction health and safety risks and how such risks should be managed, controlled or eliminated so far as reasonably practicable. However, where non-compliance on the part of any of the duty holders has been detected, the LSBRO should be able to act and initiate prosecution. 

Lastly, the implementation of the suggestions and/or recommendations mentioned above on new and existing projects would provide a long term solution to building collapse in Lagos, as building constructed within the guidance mentioned in this article can be guaranteed to be safer than those built under the present existing conditions.

Engr. Kayode V.  Fowode CMIOSH, RMaPS, M.CSSE, MNSE
Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner
Managing Consultant
Kevron Consulting Limited
8, Olanrewaju Street, Off Kudirat Abiola Way, Oregun, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
Tel: +234 13424578, +2347084152143, +2348182170991

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Construction procurement – Priority purchase

Construction procurement – Priority purchase
Kayode Valentine Fowode considers the legal issues involved in procurement, discussing how to mitigate any health and safety risks that may arise, and how practitioners should communicate these risks, both internally and to their contractors.

The way in which the Government does business is about to change radically. In an announcement in November last year, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude affirmed that it wants to make it easier for British-based and smaller firms to win government contracts.
Measures highlighted by the Cabinet Office as ways to achieve its objectives include:
  • building long-term strategic relationships with suppliers;
  • eliminating unnecessary pre-qualification form-filling and cutting red tape;
  • ensuring that future major procurements only take place after speaking informally to potential suppliers; and
  • banning the use of consultants in central-government procurements without express agreement. 
While such changes are welcome, it is nonetheless concerning that there is no mention of any expectation, or standard requirements – neither in respect of the Government nor its suppliers – to ensure effective management of procurement health and safety risk. Rather, as stated by Mr Maude, the emphasis is on cost: “The only question we will consider when choosing suppliers is who will give us the best cost-effective service.”

Clearly, a cost-effective service should be encouraged; however, this should not be to the detriment of effective management of procurement health and safety risks, which should also be given high priority. So, with the the Government’s plans on public-sector procurement laid bare, the opportunity has presented for practitioners to remind both the public and private sectors about procurement health and safety risks.

Mitigating risks – contractor requirements

Client companies (i.e. those that procure goods and services) should ensure that health and safety requirements are clearly identified and set out in specification documents. They should also try to ensure that:
  • they specify products and services that reduce health and safety risks to the lowest level, and that, as a minimum, goods and services purchased meet legal requirements (for example, when procuring plant and equipment, note should be taken of s2(2)(a) of the HSWA regarding the provision and maintenance of safe plant); 
  • their business partners comply with all the relevant legislation by incorporating these as a requirement within all their contracts;
  • they take into account, within their tender evaluation and contracting processes, a potential contractor’s approach to health and safety within its employment practices and service delivery, which ideally should be monitored and managed during the life of each contract;
  • they seek confirmation that the selected contractor understands the health and safety requirements expected of it and has the capability to meet them;
  • they deliberate on the possibilities of engaging only contractors accredited by a member of the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) programme, or similar.
Contractors should also demonstrate to the client that they have in place an effective OHS management system, and will comply with any contract-specific OHS requirements.

Mitigating risks – work equipment

Organisations should also ensure they have a standard policy and procedures in place for purchasing safe equipment, plant and machinery, and chemicals, so that any such items bought for use in the workplace are safe and can be used safely by employees.

In order to comply with requirements under PUWER 1998, it is essential that organisations purchasing equipment check that it complies with all relevant supply laws. A good starting point to achieve compliance is to examine whether the equipment is CE-marked; free from any obvious defect; and is supplied with a Declaration of Conformity and English-language user instructions. Where this is not the case, such equipment should be disregarded and termed not fit for purpose.
In addition, it is good practice for those responsible for procurement (whether an individual, or a department) to seek the assistance of experienced personnel who have previous knowledge of using similar equipment, and who can check if it is actually safe for use.

A checklist can also be used to guide the organisation in identifying those critical factors that can easily be overlooked when purchasing equipment. The checklist should be designed to capture manufacturers’ responsibilities as expected under the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulation 2008.
The HSE document, ‘Buying new machinery’,1 highlights what manufacturers have to do to ensure any equipment supplied is safe for use. This can also be used in producing guidelines on acceptance procedures and the checks to be made by the appointed employee responsible for purchasing equipment.

It goes without saying that the procurement department should aim to discuss its requirements directly with manufacturers or suppliers, wherever possible. The supplier or manufacturer should be informed of the intended use of the equipment, the environment in which it would be used, and the competence level of the user – e.g. will it be used by skilled employees, or trainees? This will enable the manufacturer to provide the procurement department with the most suitable options.

The procurement department should also ask probing questions of the manufacturers, such as: what risks to health and safety might result from the use of the equipment? Or, how well does the equipment control the health and safety risks compared with similar devices from other manufacturers?

Under reg.10 of PUWER, employers have a duty to ensure that work equipment has been designed and constructed in compliance with any essential safety requirements. So, it is beneficial to discuss your safety expectations with the suppliers at the early stage of procurement and cooperate with them by giving sufficient information that would assist them in their design. 

Ultimately, it can be expected that the purchase of well-designed ergonomic work equipment will help promote occupational well-being, reduce errors and accidents, and boost productivity.

Communicating responsibilities

In many larger organisations, buying decisions may be handled by a dedicated procurement department, which would, in most cases, rely on safety practitioners’ advice on how the health and safety competence of contractors should be assessed, in order to arrive at a reasonable judgement. However, ensuring that those making the buying decisions are sufficiently informed of the health and safety issues involved is not always easy, especially in very large organisations, or organisations spread over a wide geographical area, or with lots of subsidiaries and/or sister companies.

A simple but effective means of communicating procurement risks internally and clarifying individual or departmental responsibilities in any procurement process is to hold a workshop. This provides the opportunity to identify departmental responsibilities at the concept phase, design phase, tender phase and construction phase of any project.

For instance, in a CDM project, IT, estates and assets-management departments might have responsibilities at the concept stage to provide information for the pre-construction health and safety information pack and tender documents. They would also ensure that every individual involved in the design of the structure and every contractor who has been, or is likely to be, appointed is promptly provided with relevant information – e.g. any as-built drawings, or asbestos surveys. At the design stage, designs need to be verified to ensure that the structure can be built safely by the principal contractor and any specialist contractor.

At the tender stage, the commercial department would usually be responsible for ensuring that the pre-construction health and safety information pack is included as part of the overall tender documentation. This department would also ensure that the tender documents inform the contractor of any arrangements for providing welfare facilities for the workforce, and ensure that contractors on the tender list have sufficient and suitable competences and resources appropriate for the project.

Finally, at the construction phase, the IT, estate and assets-management departments would, again, assume the responsibilities to ensure that the principal contractor has adequate time to develop a construction-phase health and safety plan prior to work commencing and, on completion, receive a health and safety file from the CDM-coordinator, as well as access passes for maintenance and construction workers. The involvement of different departments may, of course, vary according to the business, depending on its organisational structure, the complexity of work, and the procurement route.

Health and safety practitioners should also communicate procurement responsibilities to contractors as soon as they are appointed and during the construction phase of a project, via pre-start meetings and scheme-specific induction. The pre-start meeting, which is essential in order to ensure that the contractor can continuously demonstrate a coordinated approach to the work they have been appointed to carry out, should be used to agree upon the following: the methodology of carrying out the work; the level of training and supervision required; the analysis of risks associated with the work; and any compliance issues.

It is also good practice to maintain liaison with all parties on site to ensure ongoing communication and cooperation, and to give feedback on contractors’ performance. Throughout a project, the health and safety risks that may surface as a result of their work should be communicated to all contractors promptly. Examples of effective methods of communication are:
  • develop and distribute site memos to the relevant parties, informing them of any interference to their works;
  • issue COSHH data sheets and assessments to the relevant parties to inform them of what materials your organisation uses and the hazards posed;
  • notify all concerned parties about any isolation of, or disruption to, working areas or facilities once the contractor has been appointed; and
  • schedule meetings with all parties to discuss any issues that might hinder health and safety.


Although not always at the forefront of business decisions, it is essential to consider the impact that procurement activity has on health and safety, and put measures in place to reduce its risk. It is also vital that the risks associated with the work carried out by contractors are well understood, and that close communication and cooperation are maintained between all parties throughout the procurement process.

Lastly, each procurement activity should be treated proportionately to the health and safety risks that arise from the contract on a case-by-case basis. Organisations’ procurement departments and any individuals responsible for buying decisions should also ensure that potential risks are fully assessed and that contractors provide evidence to demonstrate that their organisation actively promotes and manages health and safety.    


1     HSE (2011): INDG271 (rev 1) Buying new machinery: A short guide to law and your responsibilities when buying new machinery for use at work –

Kayode Valentine Fowode previously worked as a Consultant (HSE/CDM coordinator) at Turner & Townsend Project Management Limited.

Published By SHP Online :
Posted March 14, 2012