Uwemedimo Umoumoh is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pro-Lines International Company, a safety, health and environmental (SH&E) consulting firm in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. With over 25 years of experience as a SH&E engineer in the production, manufacturing and oil and gas industries, Umoumoh has made lasting contributions to SH&E practices in Nigeria. In this interview, Umoumoh explains his company’s efforts toward promoting and improving occupational safety and health in Nigeria, and he offers his suggestions for incorporating safety training into the country’s educational curriculum.
Please provide a brief overview of Pro-Lines International Company and of your responsibilities as Chair and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Pro-Lines International Company is an incorporated technical outfit that offers professional consultancy services in safety engineering, occupational health and the environment. It was incorporated in 1983, but it actually came into practice in 1999 after my retirement from Exxon Mobil Nigeria Unlimited. My responsibility as Chair and Chief Executive (CEO) is to direct our professional services and to assist our clients in the areas of compliance and practices so as to ensure a safe environment and society.
Pro-Lines International Company works in emergency response management with Akwa Ibom State Government to create safer working environments and to reduce occupational accidents. How has this coordination helped to improve occupational safety and health within the state?
This coordination has helped to reduce occupational accidents within the companies with which we consult. We provide consulting services to over fifteen construction companies, and our advice covers everything from new hire orientation to job safety analysis and monitoring.
With respect to emergency response management, we are working on a more reliable mechanism to be implemented with the Red Cross, multinational companies and the government. This will ensure that the employment and deployment of staff, equipment, resources and materials owned by various institutions will produce an effective emergency response.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is responsible for disaster management in Nigeria. How does Pro-Lines International Company work with NEMA to address emergencies in Akwa Ibom State and throughout Nigeria?
Pro-Lines International Company has asked two past Ministers of Aviation in Nigeria to help in disaster management, but we have not received a response from them. We believe that the Government of Nigeria would benefit greatly from our proposal to form a wholesome working relationship in disaster management. Unfortunately, the Akwa Ibom State government does not have a disaster management plan in place, and Nigeria has yet to implement a visible, viable and responsive mechanism for emergency mitigation. Pro-Lines International Company has again offered professional assistance to the incumbent Minister of Aviation and to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Once the government allows certified and experienced personnel to correct the established deficiencies in emergency management, we expect that emergencies will be handled more professionally and timely in the future.
How did Pro-Lines International Company help to change the way sanitation workers clear refuse in Akwa Ibom State’s capital, Uyo?
Before 2004, contractors who were not professionals crudely handled refuse disposal. They used shovels to scoop the refuse into the backs of open trucks (tippers), and workers wore no personal protective equipment (PPE).
Today, thanks to our firm’s efforts, one environmentally proficient company picks up and disposes of the refuse mechanically.
You have twenty-five years of experience as a safety, health and environmental (SH&E) engineer in Nigeria, and your company, Pro-Lines International Company provides consulting services to the Akwa Ibom State government and to organizations such as Peacock Paints Nigeria Limited and Exxon Mobil Nigeria Unlimited. What is the state government’s view of SH&E investment, and how does it support the endeavors of safety engineers and consultants?
Based on my 25 years of experience as a SH&E engineer, I would say that the government does not consider SH&E investment a priority. It appears that the government is concerned about SH&E investment only after a major accident with fatalities occurs. Even then, the government prefers to invest in “short-term” and “fire service” approaches rather than in long-term, comprehensive approaches that would be much more proactive and meaningful.
The government does not support safety engineers or consultants at all. Once the government sees our input as cost-saving rather than as calls for expenditure, only then will they appreciate the important roles of safety engineers and consultants. The little patronage that safety engineers and consultants receive from organizations and oil companies depends largely on the fact that they are foreign, multinational or require insurance.
The fatality rate and the cost of equipment, materials and retrofitting in government projects is extremely high as a result of safety engineers’ and consultants’ non-engagement in major projects and constructions.
As Chair and CEO, how do you ensure that effective SH&E practices are followed within Pro-Lines International Company?
I definitely ensure that effective SH&E practices are followed within Pro-Lines International Company because as Chair and CEO, it is my duty to lay a good ethical foundation for the company. My professional certification and license as well as those of my employees must reflect in the quality of services that we offer our clients. Our duty to provide a reasonably safe environment is an undisputed commitment to our clients and to the society at large.
You have significant experience in production, manufacturing, oil and gas. What specific SH&E improvements have you witnessed within these industries in Nigeria during your career as an SH&E engineer?
My experience in production, manufacturing, oil and gas makes me proud of my career as an SH&E engineer. Over the years, I have been a part of the following achievements:
How is safety awareness promoted to the public in Akwa Ibom State and in Nigeria in general? Do you believe that current safety campaigns are successful? Why or why not?
Promotion of safety awareness in Akwa Ibom State and to the Nigerian public is low. This is because no university or polytechnic school in Nigeria offers safety engineering courses. I proposed to the government that safety be included in the educational curriculum within primary and secondary schools. This will help students to understand what constitutes risk at both their homes and in public.
Also, the mandatory introduction of safety engineering fundamentals and management into all engineering courses as a general requirement will help our young engineering students to gain some knowledge of applied safety, which they can then use in their engineering practices. Until safety is brought into the classrooms in Nigeria, the word “safety” will still be misunderstood by the average Nigerian.
Pro-Lines International Company offers consulting services in such areas as safety training and engineering, risk assessment/mitigation and fire protection, among others. From your perspective, which areas have been most in need of your company’s expertise, and why do you think this demand exists?
The areas most in need of our services our construction safety, driving safety and project safety. This is because of the low level of personnel used in their execution. Safety consultancy is lacking very much in the construction sector, which has a high rate of collapsed structures and fatalities. Driving in Nigeria is worse than the reflexes of a pilot who is trying to land in bad weather. The poor state of the roads, uneducated drivers and the method of acquiring a driver’s license all result in high death tolls on Nigeria’s roads. In project management (except for oil companies), the state governments and the federal government do not consider the appointment of a safety engineer or consultant in major projects. This results in expensive retrofitting to correct deficient or ignored safety measures that a safety engineer or consultant could have identified during the project’s design stage.
You are an international member of the American society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). How has your experience as a society member helped you in your positions of Pro-Lines International Company?
Before I joined the ASSE, I had been a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals and a Member of the International Institute of Risk and Safety Management. As my years of practice grew, I discovered that my qualifications and experience did not provide me with solutions in my position of responsibility. Therefore, I went back to study safety engineering in California and joined the ASSE. My ASSE membership is everything that I had expected. Access to the website and to Professional Safety journal have helped me in my professional practice requirements. My attendance at the recent Professional Development Conference (PDC) in New Orleans, Louisiana was tremendously beneficial. I intend to ensure that Pro-Lines International Company is always represented at the ASSE’s annual conference.
Uwemedimo Umoumoh is the Chair and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pro-Lines International Company, a safety, health and environmental (SH&E) consulting firm in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Pro-Lines provides companies such as Peacock Painting Nigeria Limited and Exxon Mobil Nigeria Unlimited with consulting services in the following areas:
Pro-Lines also consults with the Akwa Ibom State government on major spills and incidents.
Umoumoh has 25 years of experience as a SH&E engineer in the production, manufacturing and oil and gas industries, and in addition to his positions at Pro-Lines, he is the Executive Director of Jolimair Nigeria Limited, a building and civil engineering company. Previously, Umoumoh worked as an SH&E Supervisor for Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited and as the Head of the Fire and Safety Department at Nigeria Newsprint Manufacturing Company Limited.
He has served as National Secretary General and as Chair (Akwa Ibom State Branch) of the Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals, of which he is also a member, fellow and examiner. He is a member and the current Chair of the Akwa Ibom State Branch of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria, and he belongs to the following organizations:
Umoumoh holds an associate degree in risk and safety management from the British Safety Council in London.