Officials of the Lagos State Safety Commission on Tuesday met with the management of Rigipark Containers Limited over workplace hazards at the latter’s factory.
At the meeting, Hakeem Dickson, the director-general of the commission, expressed his displeasure at an incident that resulted in the permanent disability of the company’s employee.
He said the state government has zero-tolerance for hazards at the workplace.
Rigipark Containers Limited, a company established in 1978 and situated in Ikeja, manufactures cartons for packaging products.
The meeting came after a December 2018 incident at the company where Kingsley Ifokwe, a contract staff at Rigipark Containers Limited, lost an arm while operating a machine.
Mr Ifokwe’s arm was jammed in the machine while he was trying to manually feed papers into it.
He told PREMIUM TIMES that he had been working with the company since 2014 but was laid off in 2015 before he was called back in 2016.
“They dropped me and called me back in 2016. I was a staff from 2014-2015, it was just 10 months before they dropped me and called me back as a contract staff,” said Mr Ifokwe, 36, who hails from Abia State.
According to the official report of the incident by the safety commission, some of the causes of the accident included the company’s lack of safety management system and failure to train workers on the proper use of machines.
“Also, staff of Rigipark Containers work overtime,” the report stated.
“They undergo 12 hours shift with inadequate resting time. Hence, the accident occurred as a result of fatigue, absent-mindedness, and workers overstretching themselves.”
On the day the accident occurred, Mr Ifokwe said he resumed work at 7 p.m. and the accident occurred around 4:35 a.m.
According to him, he was not given any resting time, prior to the accident.
“Normally, we go on break but it has been long we experienced break,” he said.
According to Mr Dickson, the health and safety of everyone in Lagos are important to the commission and not just environmental health.
“As long as people are in Lagos, we want them to be safe, every company must have a safety policy in place. Allowing workers to work overtime without being paid for it is in itself an offence.”
Sanjay Jain, the director of Rigipark, said the company would ensure another accident does not happen again.
He said the company is aware that the required work time is eight hours, and hence they pay their workers for overtime.
“We are a law-abiding corporate institution that was why we reported the incident and we also took care of the victim.”
“Rigipark has been in operation since 1978 and no incident of such has occurred. We give them time to rest, in fact, some of them hide in sleep.”
Mr Jain also added that personal protective equipment for staff does not cost any organisation much money but people do not want to use them.
“People do not want to use them, you force them, force them but they don’t use it.”
He said that the company is ready to incorporate all protective measures to avoid a recurrence.
While explaining how the machine severed Mr Ifokwe’s arm, Mr Jain said they are not meant to feed paper into the machine while it is in motion.
“This is how it works, you put it off, feed paper into it, then go back to put it on,” he added.
Mr Jain also said they would foot Mr Ifokwe’s medical bills as well procure an artificial limb for him, adding that he’s still on the company’s payroll.
Mr Dickson said in addition to the safety measures that Rigipark is mandated to put in place, the company should look into how Mr Ifokwe can be rehabilitated to continue working for the company.
“He might not do factory work but menial jobs such as quality assurance and others. This is a permanent disability which makes it very difficult for him to get another job.”
But Mr Ifokwe said he is no longer interested in working for the company.
“I don’t like the way they treated me when I was there, if I go back there it is as though I don’t know what I’m doing.”