From the articles you’ve written for SLA, you’re clearly interested in safety. Where did this interest come about?
I worked in a Nigerian airline as a cabin crew staff. One day in 2013, my boss informed me that I was now a safety officer. In addition to my original responsibilities, I was to work with another colleague to bring safety information and solutions to the Cabin Services Unit. My colleague and I decided we would launch monthly safety forums to share knowledge on safety issues affecting crew members, on and off the job. As someone, who believes in doing whatever I do very well, I started reading about it and I loved what I was discovering. But of course for you to be termed a competent person, you need sufficient knowledge, ability, training and experience. I embarked on certifications and volunteer work during my leave and off days on my bill. It wasn’t easy to give up vacation and other stuff but it was a necessary sacrifice.
In the course of doing all these, I observed that it was mainly businesses in aviation, construction and oil and gas industries that took safety systems seriously. I decided to start a health and safety business that would provide tailored and affordable safety solutions for businesses, especially SMEs. A lot of SMEs I got in touch with thought accidents were beyond their purview. Therefore, I started a system of reorientation because I believed that gradually with more information, a safety consciousness would be awakened.
I started writing on safety issues in a simpler format that the everyday person could relate to on my blog and later on SLA. At some point, my mentor Steve Harris suggested I make videos as not everyone might want to read. So, the idea of #60SecondsWithTheSafetyChic on Instagram and The Safety Chic came alive.
#60SecondsWithTheSafetyChic is a weekly 60seconds or less video where content of blog articles is summarised. This way, my audience can have access to safety tips on the go. I have found that our generation, and people generally, are quite interested in an awesome quality of life, so anything that makes them able to live better is welcome.
Do you ever see Nigerians taking safety seriously?
Well, if you check, you’d find that the majority of Nigerians that are safety conscious either worked in organisations that do not joke with safety; or picked it up from friends and family members who worked there. Sometimes in an emergency, we want to help but do not know the right thing to do. It’s not really ingrained in us.
Take for example, the use of seatbelts when driving in Nigeria. Until the Federal Road Service Corps (FRSC) put a fine to it, many people did not use their seatbelts. As a matter of fact, I had to explain to someone recently the importance of seat belt usage. He felt the FRSC just wanted to have a reason to fine people.
There lies the human factor, which is the major cause of so many accidents and incidents. The machine could work well, the work procedure could be perfect but if the human being engaged in the task refuses to do the safe thing, an accident happens. So, I decided to take safety education to schools through the Train Them Young Initiative (#2TYI) because this is a problem that can only be solved from the root.
#2TYI is a free safety training for public schools on road safety, fire safety, first aid and personal safety. I believe that safety education for students goes a long way in grooming a future workforce such that complies with safety standards. This will reduce workplace accidents and incidents as the habits we form in our formative years shape our future behaviour.
The future goal of this initiative is to get safety education into the curriculum of all schools.
@thesafetychic is taking safety education to students in schools with #2TYI Click To Tweet
Tell us about being part of the YALI project.
I was privileged to be selected for the Barack Obama Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Nigeria Cohort 1. It was an amazing experience meeting like minds doing awesome stuff in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and the Gambia.
I knew there were lots of activists, but I had no clue there were so many young people advocating for all sorts of stuff. Let’s just say the world I was coming from was totally different. Some colleagues wondered what a cabin crew was doing in their midst; considering I wasn’t advocating for human rights, gender equality, child marriage etc.
I think it was the Train Them Young Initiative that got me in. This is quite funny because when I started it, it was just my way of giving back to the society. I just wanted people to be a bit more informed and safe. Despite being slightly different from my new colleagues, we found common ground in a desire for excellence. This led to wonderful friendships and collaboration.
We now have this family bond, no matter what you need there is always someone with the expertise and know-how.
Leveraging on one another's strengths means we achieve more - Ugochi Obidiegwu Click To Tweet
Why would you say every one needs YALI?
Every young person needs YALI because it challenges you and pushes you towards utmost performance. It opens your eyes to gaps in your society and spurs you to do more. So you think you are smart, you would meet smarter folks. You think your educational accomplishments are gangster, wait till you meet someone with more. You think you are doing so much already for society, you’ll see someone doing more or more gaps in the society.
Basically, YALI challenges you to be a better version of yourself, remember it’s all about collaboration and not competition. Leveraging on one another’s strengths means we achieve more. Class group activities would teach you different perspectives to issues across individual, cultural and national lines.
And of course friendship beyond borders. I can go to any of the aforementioned countries with the certainty of a good welcome. Have I also mentioned an enriched network? Strive Masiywa said, “You peers today are tomorrow’s big “men”, treat them well”.
Imagine a world with young people like this striving to make the world a better place, it would be an awesome world.
What is your vision for the health and safety industry in Nigeria?
A Nigeria where every business has successfully integrated Health and Safety practices in their day-to-day activities. A Nigeria where safety laws are not just enacted but enforced.
Ugochi Obidiegwu wants a Nigeria where safety laws are not just enacted but enforced Click To Tweet
What will be your goals for 2017?
My goals for 2017 are to increase my client base and take #2TYI outside Lagos State. For my services, more
- Safety awareness trainings,
- Safety equipment supply and
- HSSE consulting
And product-wise, I’d like to introduce personal locator devices. Current trends are; shoes, wristwatches, bags, car trackers and ID cards.
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