The Federal Government has called for the adoption of safe practices in the workplace as preventive measures to reduce the risk of exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Festus Keyamo SAN, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja in commemoration of the 2020 World Day for Safety and Health at Work with the theme: “Stop the Pandemic’’.

Keyamo said that by adopting preventive measures such as good hygiene, physical distancing, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), among others, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in workplaces would be reduced.

The minister said that 10 of thousands of workers had  died from the pandemic, while many still attended work ill-equipped and without the necessary safety measures in place.

He called on employers of labour to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, including managing the risks of exposure to infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Keyamo urged workers to cooperate with their employers, and adopt safe and healthy work behaviours as part of their respective statutory responsibilities.

“To this end, the employer must ensure good hygiene and cleanliness of the workplace, implement physical distancing measures, ensure training of workers on infection prevention and control measures.

“They are also to provide the required personal protective equipment in accordance with the guidelines that have been stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC),” he said.

He said that necessary administrative and engineering controls must also be instituted as required to reduce risk of transmission of infection in the workplace.

The minister however called for adequate infection and control measures in all health facilities nationwide for the protection of workers in that sector.

“They put their lives in line for others during this pandemic and other health emergencies,’’ he said.

Keyamo said that the economic and social disruptions occasioned by the pandemic had threatened the health and livelihood of millions of workers.

“It has impacted negatively on the survival of most businesses, particularly the micro, small and medium-scale enterprises which constitute at least 70 per cent of the nation’s workforce,” he said.

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Keyamo however described the theme for the “2020 World Day for Safety and Health at Work’’ as fitting considering the enormous challenge which the spread of the COVID-19 had posed to governments, employers and workers.

He commended the dedication and sacrifice of frontline health workers in sustaining the fight against the pandemic across the globe, and in Nigeria in particular.

The minister said that some had died in the line of duty.

“Government has duly demonstrated its support of the frontline health workers through recent roll out of various incentives such as life insurance coverage, and signing of a memorandum of understanding for payment of various allowances,” he said.

He also commended the essential service providers such as police, fire fighters, military personnel, petrol attendants, tanker drivers, the journalists and others for risking their health to provide those services.

Keyamo gave the assurance of Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring safe, healthy, and decent work for all, and called on all Nigerians to support the effort of government in stopping the further spread of the COVID-19.

He stressed the concern of government about workers resuming work in a manner that would sustain current efforts at suppressing transmission of the disease.

Keyamo disclosed that activities planned for the commemoration of this year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work had to be shelved in adherence to the guidelines on physical distancing and ban on public gathering, occasioned by the pandemic.

Also Dr Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, the Director, Occupational Health and Safety Department in the ministry, said that the theme for this year was in line with the present global realities.

“It focuses on the role that safety and health measures can play in stopping the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as many health workers are now getting infected with the disease,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Day for Safety and Health at Work is celebrated yearly on April 28.

It is a day set aside by the International Labour Organisation to focus international attention on the prevention of work-related accidents, injuries, diseases and deaths globally. (NAN)