Health is wealth is a common saying, it is often said especially when we consider our healthy life with times of illness. But what we usually left unconsidered is the real term that makes the phrase true. There is a very important area of medicine that is little known about, talked about and given serious attention, especially in developing countries. It is occupational health.

This medical specialist is not well known in Nigeria. Interestingly enough, it concerns all of us whether as doctors, engineers, goldsmith, teachers, market women, accountants, street traders, farmers, fishermen without exceptions. We are all exposed to one or more health hazards as a result of our day to day activities. Beyond this however it is statutorily recognized by industrial laws though not as a limited to the health of the duty bound exposee alone but the general effect  on the immediate or remote environment is inclusive.

–          The laws of the federation of Nigeria and Lagos 1958repealed by factories decree 1978 sections 86 & 87.

–          Factories (Sanitary Accommodation) Regulation Legal Notice 116 of 1957.

–          First-aid Box (prescribed standards) order-Legal Notice 4 of 1957.

–          Declaration of occupational diseases Notice Legal 114 of 1956.

–          The dock regulations (safety of labour ) Legal notice 42 of 1958.

The setting –up of separate department in the federal ministry of health as occupational health unit with clinics in federal secretariat and federal agencies where they exist shows the seriousness of the govt. in this direction.In addition the federal environmental protection agency degree of 1988  empowers a whole agency to control and monitor hazards from the industrial and non-industrial pollutants.

I have gone this far, for us to see the importance of this aspect of medicine to life. It is also necessary for us to know that the number of professionals involved in the occupational medicine is also small that the society of physicians of Nigeria is concerned and have made serious attempts to localize the training of specialist to alleviate the problems of company or individuals interested in the field in sourcing the  pricely foreign exchange for oversea training.

However, the concern of this writer is the increasing need for awareness and deprivation of its benefits occasioned by malpractices, and of in-depth knowledge as to why and the need for such services either as individual or corporate entity. Many of our companies are either involved in manufacturing, semi manufacturing, assembling and marketing. There is non that will not use some or all of the following:

1)      Electricity and electrical  equipments( power)

2)      Hydraulically operated equipments & tools

3)      Pneumatically operated equipments & tools

4)      Mechanically operated equipments & tools

5)      Manual and semi-automatic equipments & tools

  1. Power source: electricity and electrical equipment are sources of power for the workforce to carry out their daily duties. Each day we make use of these power sources or working tools, we are susceptible to dangers. The dangers of the office fluorescent bulb exploding and injuring one in the eyes, face or any part of our body if we incidentally  work under it or even steps on its broken pieces.  This danger is even more probable on the factory floor where the work force have little or no education. In the textile industry the manufacturing hall is often more hazardous  to health. Dry hot air in the factory. The hydraulic, pneumatic or electrically powered machines with synchronized movement and acting under constant pressure provided by the compressed air as power source can malfunction  and cause serious injuries to operators and supervisors alike. In the same vein a night market trader, like you see at the old night market at oshodi, though unaware is subject to the hazards in soots emanating from the flame of the undirected head point lanterns that provided her and others lighting.

The Power generator has become a more dangerous source of health hazard both at work and work environment, home and even on our streets. There is no need befogging this because it a well known fact to all of us.


  1.  Aside from this energy issue, there are those involved in the use of hazardous consumables that are either blended as additives in the manufacturing of refined, less harmful final products or as catalyst to aid production process.

There are also those that are the ends themselves. The marketers have the options of either selling as a bulk or split into smaller units for the convenience of the petty consumers. These are substances like

1)      Toluene Di-isocyanates TDI

2)      Wood dust

3)      Formalin

4)      Carbon Disulphide

5)      Mercury

6)      Leads (organic and inorganic)

7)      Manganese

8)      Methylene chloride

9)      Benzene

10)   Sulphuric acid

A battery charger is constantly under the risk of health; the automobile battery plates are made of spongy lead cells and the battery terminals are made of the same substance. What takes place during batter changing is the electrolysis of dilute Sulphuric  acid using the lead as electrode.  Hence, the repair of battery terminals, cells and clearing are direct contact with lead and its fumes during smelting are regular hazards. The exposure to concentrated sulphuric acid which are often tasted as a way of determining its Ph has become a ready threat to the health of this group people.

Sometimes, we did experienced hazardous odor from our pump petrol which experts in the petroleum and environmental studies blamed on the level of Benzene contained in the pumped petrol. A newspaper reported the death of a motor mechanic who attempted to draw this petrol with his mouth. Petrol contains some organic lead, while leaded fuel has been done away with in other society we are still face with the hazard of it use.

The hazards from chemical substances in form of liquid, dust, paste, fumes cannot be exhausted  in the course of a simple write-up like this. One can only delineate it and leave the occupational health experts to expatiate and recommend remedies.

Apart from the hazard from the source mentioned above, the service sectors are not without serious dangers emanating from the:

1)      Activities of the brain

2)      Persistent exposure of the face (eyes)to power rays

3)      General industrial and individual pollutions and noise in the environment.

4)      Lack of use or inadequate use of appropriate working gadget and clothing.

Pervading poverty in the third world often expose the working class to long period of work. The farmers go to the farm in the morning, sometimes as early a 4.30a.m/5 am only to come back by 6pm/7pm working an approximate of 14 to 16 hrs. Daily. The man in the city is not better for it. In Lagos people wake up as early as 4am to leave home on time in other to beat the traffic build-up and get to work on time. Coming home is another story; such person may not be home until 10 p.m-12p.m and sometimes later. This is a steady cause of serious strains on the brains and coupled with the usual frustration associated with traffic jams involving commuters and road transport workers or even the intellectual jams of the car owners. All these things take tolls on our health and lives.

The computer operators at the business centers constantly expose their eyes to the rays of the radiations of the computer monitor.  Their eyes are strained to see sometimes tiny letters and this further burden their eyes the more. The iron bender many a times carry out their works without the use of gorgles’ that are meant to protect the eyes from the sparkling lighting and the electrode splashes.

Many artisans do their work in badly ventilated apartments where the gases and the fumes resulting from their activities are not blown out but remain indoor with them causing untold damage to their health. In the same vain some of our factories are sometimes engulfed in smokes, fumes and in active gases. A casual observer of our working environment will suggest a working population of deaf people. Our society do not seems to appreciated the use of ear muff to safe our hear drum or even our hearing sensory. A visit to the mechanic workshop while he repairs your car, would enable you see how lack of tools, I mean adequate tools, cause  them serous occupational accidents which ordinarily could be avoided.

In our society today the practice of occupational health is still restricted to the multi-national companies and very few of our partially local industries. The big industries are constraint by their technical partners to safety standards to reduce the incidence of illness due to occupation, these companies engage either general practitioners or sometimes occupational physician as a head of Medicare.

However this does not seems to help much as the need to design health scheme and monitor staff health care becomes more demanding and financially gruesome to handle.

In some organization the bill generated through staff Medicare scheme formed substantial part of the  personnel expenditure for a particular accounting year. expectedly  some of these company became weary of the health service to workers, this led to a number of measures taken to eradicate the seemly imprudent welfare package of the staff.

In doing this different methods and tactics were employed depending on what the management felt is the cause or causes of the plight.

a)      Outright conciliation of health scheme especially for junior and non-management staff.

b)      Payment of medical allowances to management staff and other workers below.

c)       Partial medical scheme that pays more attention to top management staff exposed to less risk and little to the work force that are exposed most of the time to work hazard.

d)      Total deprivation by retrenchment of selected categories of workforce only to re-employ the same personnel as contractor staff.

e)      The use of badly managed and gain less in-house clinic to evade penalties from the industrial  safety laws and edicts.

Sincerely speaking, some of the above action may seems just and fair if the managements are called upon to defend such actions, but this do not in any way makes them right. It must also be noted that abuses are not usually limited to the workforce as one may be made to believe.

The management staff also partake in the atrocities and even in terms of cost, an atrocity by one management staff may be of the same magnitude with that of 15 junior  worker force. this is so because the management and directors patronize very expensive health services where one visit may cost as much as N50,000 for an illness  that will attract as low as N3000 in hospital where junior staff are treated. Apart from the aforementioned there are other forms of malpractices inherent in the medical scheme  of  companies which cannot be mentioned here.  But all such can be put to check.

Monitoring the health of worker is a very important aspect of staff management that will continue to foster productivity and commitment to enterprise goal. An healthy worker is a viable tool of the enterprise growth and development.

Olanrewaju Adedoyin.





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