Delegates at a virtual session on ‘Training for Vision Zero’ at the XXII World Congress last month were told how arming children and teenagers with safety knowledge would enable them to enter the workplace as adults better equipped to make safety decisions and help reduce avoidable accidents.
Ugochi Obidiegwu, managing partner at The Safety Chic in Nigeria, and Bonnie Yau, executive director of Occupational Safety and Health Council in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, outlined their respective safety initiatives, both of which are designed to instill a prevention culture in the workforce of the future.
A social development strategist whose work on child safety has been recognised by the European Network Education and Training in Occupational Safety and Health (ENETOSH) as good practice for members states, Obidiegwu set up The Safety Chic in 2016 to reduce avoidable accidents in Nigeria and other African states.
In a session that explored ‘how responsible organisations develop a positive, caring work culture and safe, healthy and productive workforces through training and education’, she highlighted the difficulty in overturning entrenched safety behaviours in many organisations, especially SMEs.
‘If an adult had used their right hand to eat all their life and you tell them, “You have to use your left hand; you’ve been doing it incorrectly your entire life”, because they are used to doing it, it will take supervision for them to switch to using their left hand.’
The best way to change this mindset over the long term is through teaching young children, she argues.
Obidiegwu told IOSH magazine: ‘If we start to teach children early about making safe choices it becomes part of their life. They begin to grow with that knowledge. What happens is that when they find themselves in other situations, and even when they are introduced to the workplace, it is easier to ask them to make safety choices because they’ve been doing it all of their lives.’
The Safety Chic has created a number of interactive safety education products and programmes for this age group, including free videos, online games and apps, a podcast channel and child safety storybooks. The latter teaches young children relatable safety messages in an entertaining, fun way. She next plans to develop a cartoon version of the story book and has produced a short trailer.
‘Entertainment methods are great at instilling safety knowledge, so we need to make sure that this happens inside and outside school,’ she says.
‘One of the things we strive to do in my work is use real-life situations to teach safety so that it isn’t abstract.’
Obidiegwu has proposed a number of safety initiatives to the Nigerian government to support Vision Zero’s end goal to reduce accidents as much as is reasonably practicable with a specific emphasis on developing a culture of prevention.
Targeting young children upwards through the education system, she’s recommended that the Nigerian education authority introduces a lesson each week on safety.
'One of the things we strive to do in my work is use real-life situations to teach safety so that it isn’t abstract'
‘Imagine if we just do 30 or 40 minutes once a week on a safety topic that is relevant to the age of the child,’ she says. ‘If we do that, it means that through an academic term, the children are systematically learning about a different area of safety.’
If this continues through to secondary and university level, albeit tailored to the right age group, safety becomes ‘second nature’, she continues.
‘What that means is that to a large extent, we are going to reduce avoidable accidents because the prevention culture has been steeped into everything that children encounter.’
The Occupational Safety and Health Council in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China has also been nurturing a prevention culture among young learners and using this to influence their parents’ behaviour.
Tailored for teenage students, the council has created an interactive half-day workshop, the highlight of which is a fully immersed Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) experience. Yau told delegates that two scenarios had been developed so far.
In the first scenario, the students take on the role of a construction worker who is carrying out maintenance work on a temporary truss-out platform stationed at the twenty-fifth storey of a high-rise building without having taken any safety measures on fall protection. In the virtual experience, the truss-out platform collapses and the student, wearing 3-D glasses and standing on a motion platform, experiences what it is like to fall from height.
In the second scenario, the students take on the role of a warehouse worker who does not use a pedestrian crossing and experiences the impact of being hit by a fork-lift truck. To heighten the senses, students wear an interactive pressure vest.
Yau admits that finding space to promote work health and safety in school curriculums alongside core subjects has been difficult. However, the council’s fun and interactive use of cutting edge technology has helped enhanced the young students’ understanding of work safety and hopefully filtered through to their parents and extended family.
As part of a wider ‘Youth OSH Promotional Campaign’, the council has also used other approaches to raise awareness of good safety practice.
‘We note that students still listen to the radio, so we’ve partnered with radio channels to visit schools with DJs and pop singers, whom the students find more attractive and are more willing to associate with,’ she told delegates.
Yau adds, however, that it isn’t only about educating the future workforce. In Hong Kong, most fatal accidents are on construction sites so the council’s Vision Zero ambitions have also involved using competition, promotion and training (both classroom-based and experiential learning such as hands-on practice and CAVE scenarios) to drive up safety standards among the region’s biggest employers.
Competitions have been particularly effective in motivating bosses to not only meet minimum safety requirements but also to raise the bar. Partnerships have also been critical, she adds.
‘It’s all about leadership. We have some safety schemes where if they have a very good safety performance, the housing authority in Hong Kong will say, “Next time, when we are tendering, you will be better placed to win the contract”.’
The council has also created a wellbeing campaign with government departments that reaches more than 2,000 companies, which covers healthy eating, exercise and mental health.
‘We send professional trainers to their company for an hour or two-hour workshops during lunchtime,’ Yau told IOSH magazine. ‘These are dieticians, physical trainers and social workers.’
One of Vision Zero’s seven golden rules is to improve qualifications and competence.
In Hong Kong, the law requires construction sites to employ safety supervisors. However, requirements on training and experience are not specified. Therefore, as Yau explains, without creating the market demand for competent well-qualified supervisors, potential candidates will not invest time in gaining the required accredited qualifications. The council has partnered with Hong Kong’s housing authority to create this market demand.
‘In their contract requirements, the housing authority has stipulated that all sites should have safety supervisors accredited by the Occupational Safety and Health Council and this now means that more people are willing to get the proper training and experience.’
The XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work took place as an online virtual event from 20-23 September, offering live broadcasting, networking and discussions for delegates representing more than 100 countries.
As the ISSA notes, the vision ‘promotes a global prevention culture, in which strategies for occupational safety and health are not limited to the workplace, but also contribute to human wellbeing and benefit economies and societies.’
The ISSA has developed a range of resources to support the campaign and Vision Zero’s seven golden rules. IOSH, which signed up to Vision Zero in 2018, has co-developed a professional training programme with ISSA which teaches its principles and benefits as a preventative strategy and provides learners with the tools needed to implement it.