I have experienced safety in 2 different societies/countries – UK and Nigeria.
They have similarities and differences.
While the government of one has made it a legal requirement and has stringent laws in place, the other really doesn’t care if workplaces burn to the ground.
So what we get is a system where businesses and schools are conditioned to meet certain safety requirements in one (the UK); and a system where a bribery, corruption and nonchalance is all you need to not bother with safety (Nigeria).
One learns from her’s and others’ mistakes and often takes preventative action, the other is more reactive as they basically wait for things to go wrong, and begin to run around like headless chickens.
Both however, have lots of work to do especially on safety in schools. Why?
They both focus on the basics. Not enough is being done.
What I see is schools doing a tick box exercise. We have a health and safety policy, we’re good. Well, no you’re not.
Another observation is little or no effort to ensure wellbeing of teachers. All the focus is usually on the children. Which is good but honestly, you can’t get good result of the teachers themselves are not cared for.
Your best is not good enough. Doing above the minimum required is what makes a great safety system and culture.
How do I know all these?
I am Professor Ike. I have been a safety practitioner for just over 10 years. I have been opportune to work in different sectors with the most recent being Architecture. I started off as a safety trainer and adviser before venturing into the sweet world of consulting . I am qualified. I have a master’s degree in Occupational Health and Safety Management from the awesome Brunel University.
I managed my family owned school for over 3 years. During this time, I discovered they had nothing on safety except a couple of fire extinguishers that were begging for revival and a first aid box. No one even knew how to use the extinguishers.
I got to work.
I started with the children by introducing it to their school work and taking them on fire safety, first aid and laboratory safety; having talks at assembly; and getting them to work on safety presentations during our health and safety week (a new introduction to their term’s calendar).
I did this for 2 years and decided to take it to other schools.
Safe Schools was born.
Alas! Even the biggest and most expensive schools had nothing on safety. No policies, no emergency management plans, no training, NOTHING! Many didn’t even know what safety was. How then did they gain British school status?! Alarming right?
Our mission was to educate children on different safety topics so we could help groom them into responsible individuals who were able to take care of theirs and others safety and wellbeing, by taking safe actions.
We also wanted to help school heads and owners create a safe and healthy learning and work environment, as we discovered that too many ills and accidents were taking place in schools and no one was doing anything about them. Things like child abuse, most of sexual nature. What we got was people venting on social media for days and these cases forgotten.
We knew instantly, that we needed to empower children to stop or report abuse before it starts. How? Identify and report inappropriate touch and comments even if unsure. Once they make you uneasy, report.
School Safety isn’t just about the physical. An abused child cannot learn and thrive the way they should, especially if they get no help or support. An unhealthy child cannot learn. A frustrated or unhappy teacher cannot impart knowledge or give their best and more. At the end of the day, the children are the ones who lose ultimately.
School Safety is about every stakeholder – children, staff and parents, working together. That is why we started SAFEtagious.
Yes we all know that safety is basically about being free from harm. But we can only mostly achieve this by being proactive, rather than reactive. That is, you don’t wait for things to go wrong before taking action. It is better to put a system in place to prevent problems, even if you feel it is slightly over the top.
We won’t always have problems. But isn’t it better to have some measures in place and nothing goes wrong, than to not have it and desperately need it when something does eventually go wrong.