Netizen 24 KEN: Address safety together with security

Diposting oleh On 12.08

Address safety together with security

In Summary

  • Workplace safety falls under the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services, which is entrusted with the safety, health and welfare of all persons at the workplace.

  • A security regulatory body partnering with DOSHS would be the best way to reach a focal point on balancing safety and security.


It is saddening to see young and promising children perish in what is seen as arsonous fires amid poor mitigation mechanisms, as was the case at one of the city’s most prestigious girls schools.

The Moi Girls School-Nairobi fire disaster raises serious questions about the overall handling of safety and security not only in our learning institutions but also other areas, such as the workplace and residences.

Workplace safety falls under the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services (DOSHS), which is entrusted with t he safety, health and welfare of all persons at the workplace. DOSHS appointed advisors or auditors submit annual fire safety audit report on workplace and action plan.

One of the biggest gaps with DOSHS, however, is that it doesn’t cover areas that are not workplaces. The safety of residences, for instance, falls under the construction authorities, where enforcement is a huge challenge.


County governments have not ventured beyond demanding rates for building approvals. And although we have other statutory measures, their practical applicability is a challenge.

A major weakness of DOSHS is that it operates in isolation; there is no security-related body that governs the security needs and standards for our workplaces and residences.

A security regulatory body partnering with DOSHS would be the best way to reach a focal point on balancing safety and security.

It is quite common in Kenya to see residential house s caged like maximum security prisons: High walls laced with metal grilles.

We even have stone walls laced with sharp pieces of broken glassâ€"under the excuse that it will deter criminals.

It would be appropriate to have proper rules on putting up perimeter protection with specifications on the design and height of walls, as well as the standard of grilles.


Whenever you erect a barrier, it must address outward and inward movement. If you put up grilles and a high wall for security, you must equally address the question of emergency escape in case of fire or natural calamities such as earthquakes and floods.

Contrary to many people’s perception, high walls and metal grilles have been foundâ€"through security risk analysisâ€"to have little security value. Criminals are usually innovative.

When dealing with grilled houses, they overcome the security by suing heavy duty jacks and heavy metal to bars to lift the gril les.

The public can excuse DOSHS for failure to undertake their mandate as they have challenges beyond their controlâ€"such as lack of capacity due to inadequate and well-trained staff.


Due to the obvious challenges, splinters have sprung up to plug glaring safety gaps at different levels. This includes bodies such the National Transport & Safety Authority (NTSA) and the National Construction Authority (NCA)â€"which address safety in the transport and the construction sectors, respectively.

Needless to say, the road is a major workplace, where functions of transport and logistics are carried out. Every road contractor registers the workplace.

But once the contractor is out of site, the occupier, or the owner, has a responsibility to register the workplace.


With the mushrooming of such bodies in a country suffering serious safety challenges, a holistic approach to safety and security becomes even more fragmented in the long run. It equally creates ‘sibling rivalry’, which risks undermining the purpose of safety in the public spaces.

Kenya ought to borrow a leaf from the developed countries on how to address safety and security through practical and realistic formations of safety entities that have been domesticated to address the practical safety challenges it faces.

Equally, safety awareness must be carried out targeting learning institutions from primary school to tertiary colleges.

Safety and security are not two different human needs. It is the absence of one that triggers the other. The human need is being neither insecurely safe nor securely unsafe but safe and secure. We need viable drills and well-coordinated agencies to ensure a proactive approach to safety and security.

The citizens’ change of attitude towards safety and security need not to be over-emphasized. An haphazard approach to safety and security, a react ionary approach and blame shifting will be more of a firefighting exercise than addressing the root cause of the fire.

Mr Mbarak, a retired military officer, is a certified security management professional. [email protected]

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