India’s safety problems essentially stem from poor awareness about safety in general and lack of compliance with good safety practices or rules in particular, according to Muralee Thummarukudy, Chief of Disaster Management at United Nations. We need to invest time, effort and resources to achieve good safety standards and performance and it should start from schools. In an exclusive interview to Safety Messenger, Muralee touches upon several vital issues related to safety and disaster management across the globe, the latest trends and the efforts being taken by the UN. Excerpts:
Warm greetings from Safety Messenger, and thank you for sparing your valuable time for this interview. To begin with, please tell us where India stands in terms of safety standards. How can we improve these standards?
India, unfortunately, is the holder of many records on safety incidents. More people die in India on the roads than any other country in the world. India lost about 150,000 people to road accidents in 2014, and this is increasing every year. One may think that since India has a population of 1.2 billion people, this is somewhat understandable. However, one should remember that India is neither the most populous country (that is China with a population over 1.4 billion) nor the country with most number of motor vehicles (that is the United States with over 300 million vehicles). Nor is the massive incidence of death in accidents is unique to road safety. Tens of thousands of people die drowning every year; over 20,000 people die in accidents linked to railways and tracks, fire, and electricity. Clearly, we do have a problem.
I think our safety problem stems from poor awareness about safety in general and lack of compliance with good safety practices or rules in particular. While people spend huge amounts for buying new cars, hardly anybody buys a child-safety seat costing less than Rs 10,000 and this leads to injury and deaths to thousands of children! Even though tens of thousands of two-wheeler drivers die in road accidents, there is still resistance to wearing helmet. Safety precautions in construction, especially in small-scale and medium-scale construction, are appalling.
We say in our line of business that good safety is no accident. One needs to invest time, effort and resources to achieve good safety standards and performance. As mentioned previously it should start from schools but we also need good much number of carrots and sticks to get people start following good safety procedures. Using insurance as a signal to improve compliance is a good idea.
(Read the full part of this face to face session from the November 2015 issue of Safety Messenger Magazine)