How safe are our working environments? Have we been able to address properly the challenges posed by unsafe working environments? These questions need to be addressed on a war footing especially in the backdrop of alarming increase in accidental deaths in workplaces, infections and diseases due to unhygienic unsafe working environments.
It is estimated by International Labour Organisation (ILO) that 2.34 million people die around the world each year as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. This means that there are over 6,000 victims a day. Occupational accidents and diseases have its own adverse impacts on the economic development of a nation and public health as such. Therefore, Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues need to be given top priority.
Interestingly, most of these occupational hazards are preventable if a little care is taken. It is not the dearth of laws and regulations that result in the alarming rise of occupational accidents. On the contrary, it is the lapse in implementing these norms and standards that leads to the poor state of affairs especially in developing countries like India. It is estimated that about 4% of the global gross domestic product disappears through absences from work and sickness, disability and survivors’ benefits.
Despite the fact that India has had legislation on occupational safety and health for 50 years, the there are no proper systems in place to implement effectively these laws. Worksite accidents are also grossly under-reported in the Indian context. There is also great dearth of personnel and machinery to implement the rules and regulations pertaining to occupational safety. In economies like that of the UAE, the conditions are far better.
In the UAE, there are strict laws insisting that employers must provide training to employees on any risks or hazards associated with their job, such as falling from heights. Employers must also implement adequate means to prevent or mitigate occupational hazards, including provision of adequate personal protective equipment, erection of safety barriers around hazardous equipment, and taking necessary precautions when storing hazardous materials.
Industrial companies with over 150 employees must have a full-time industrial safety officer tasked with preventing hazards and supervision of the implementation of the UAE health and safety legislation. Penalties can be compounded where there are repeat offences, and aggregated where a number of employees are affected, up to a maximum penalty of AED 5,000,000.
One of the focuses of the current issue of Safety Messenger is occupational safety and its paramount importance. Hope the cover story on this issue will be informative and eye-opening. We have also tried to cover the healthcare safety issues with added importance as a part of our renewed focus on this vital area.
We assure our readers that the New Year will see Safety Messenger coming out with more and more topical safety and healthcare issues.
M .V. Thomas