Our vehicle nearly hit an elderly woman sweeping the flyover bridge at Akwata Junction, Enugu-Onitsha expressway, Awka in Anambra State. The woman seemed oblivious to her near demise. She was more interested in doing her job than keeping her life safe. She staggered to where her dustpan was, picked it up and went back to pack what she gathered together.
Some months ago, I witnessed a similar incident along Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway (on top of New Haven Bridge), but this time it was a construction worker marking areas to be dug on the road. His own case would have been worse because two trucks came for him. But for his quick movement out of the road, he would have been added to the number of accident victims.
I don’t understand why most Nigerian employers don’t consider the safety of their workers when assigning them duties. For instance these road workers I mentioned here were sent to work on highways but there were not safety measures taken to protect them. They were left to wine and dine with fate. Of course, if anything happens to them, they will be replaced immediately.
Apart from being knocked down, the presence of these road workers during rush hour can increase the magnitude of traffic gridlock. This usually happens when one side of the road is blocked completely and the side used by all the vehicles isn’t in good condition. Or when cars have to wait for some heavy equipment vehicles to finish their works before the road will be opened again (maybe for some minutes before it is blocked again).
I don’t even believe that these workers relax to do their jobs well in this sort of condition. For instance, you may see the part of road swept by someone looking like no work has been done there. I think the fear of being hit by cars makes them want to do their job as fast as they could so that they leave.
Well, I believe that the employers of these workers should consider the following as some of the ways they can make their workers’ job easier and safer:
- Time of Work: A lot of people suggest that these workers perform their duties in the night. I used to have this view but the state of security in the country has changed that. I wouldn’t advocate that someone comes out late in the evening or night to work on our roads when thieves and other hoodlums are at loose. To even start with, which light will they use to work?
What I suggest is that they come out very early in the morning to do their jobs. If they start of around 5am, when traffic is still very sparse, I believe they will be able to get most work done before 8am, which is when the morning rush hour starts.
As far as I know Nigerian roads, traffic is never sparse again until around 11pm, by which time it becomes unsafe again on our roads. So, it is best to do early in the morning.
- Use of Modern Equipment: You may not believe it when I tell you that our road sweepers use short brooms made from palm fronds to carry out their duties. Can you just close your eyes and imagine how many kilometres one sweeper can cover in a day with a short broom (especially those ones that have gone shorter from long duration of use)?
You see, we keep deceiving ourselves. It is something like this that makes my mother say that someone is busy tickling himself. How does it sound that people are being paid to sweep and keep the major roads clean and that they are using short brooms to achieve that? To some people, it sounds funny. But to me, it sounds embarrassing.
The employers of these people should please procure some decent equipment that they should use to make their work easier and more efficient. These people aren’t sweeping compounds nor streets, they are sweeping highways.
- Use of Road Sign: Sometimes these workers are sent into the road without road signs to notify motorists of their presence. This was the reason those two trucks nearly crushed the construction worker I mentioned earlier. Employers should ensure that they provide these workers with signs that tell motorists of their presence. Any worker that failed to use his or hers should be surcharged.
- Safety Gear: I think these people manage to get just the yellow or orange jumpsuit for their workers and leave them to ‘manage’ with that. Other safety equipment seems to be luxury. Helmets, goggles, gloves, facemasks and the rest are not part of what I see these people wear to work. For their helmets, they tie scarf; for their facemask, they use handkerchief; I see some of them with worn out gloves, on one palm only; as for the goggles, either they use their personal sunglasses or they leave their eyes to enjoy dusts and grits.
- Supervision: These workers need to be supervised to ensure that their works were well carried out. Most of them, especially the sweepers, don’t do their work well (even though I’m suspecting the short broom to be the culprit).
I know that developed countries use better electronic machines to sweep their streets and roads. But in Nigeria, we still use manual ones. It is fine because it ensures more job creation, to some extent. But, there is a need to make this work easier and safer for those performing it by giving them much needed equipment and providing safety measures that will protect them.