Work Safety – Who’s at fault?

March 19, 2008

Work Safety Standards – Because saving even a single life is worth it

The death of 5 young men on 2nd March 2008, while conducting a borehole operation inside a well in Male’s Fish Market, have raised many questions regarding the workplace safety standards currently existing in the Maldives. It has also raised question as to who should take the responsibility for the lack of safety measures observed by these 5 young people while working inside the well. It is noteworthy that this is not the first time we have experienced deaths and severe injuries resulting from total disregard of workplace safety. It is then appropriate to ask why employees, employers and the state have shown a blind eye to this issue for such a long period of time. It is my belief that the responsibility does not lie with one single party; the responsibility has to be shared by employees, employers and the state.

 

The state in any country bears the burden of legislating and implementing laws to serve and protect its citizens. Legislating Rules and Regulations on workplace safety standards also falls on the government’s shoulder in making work sites safe for the people who work in them and also the general public from those work sites. It is also the government’s responsibility to monitor the workplaces to ensure the state of the workplaces are with the workplace safety standards, and penalise those who fail to adhere to it.

 

Poor workplace safety Standards and poor monitoring of the standards is equal to inviting tragedy with open arms. The Bopal tragedy in India serves the best example of this. The state of Madhya Pradesh was aware of the poor workplace safety observed in Bopal plant but decided to ignore the issue on the ground that it provided much needed employment and income for the locals. Then, on the night of 3 December 1984 tragedy struck, when a reaction in one of the storage tanks resulted in leaking more than 40 tones of Methyl Isocynate (MIC) gas into the air killing 3800 people instantly and more than 30000 people to date. Should the Maldives wait on for proper workplace safety standards till we experience a similar tragedy? Obviously no, if a Workplace Safety Standard means saving a single life it is definitely worth it. Thus, it is time for the government to introduce tighter Workplace Safety Standards and develop a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the standards are well observed within worksites and no more lives are lost to poor safety conditions.

 

Employers should also shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that workplace safety standards are observed. Any deaths or injuries resulting from their failure to adhere to workplace safety standards largely fall on them, even if no such standards exist. Health and Safety standards should become an integral part of the overall corporate Strategy. Failure to incorporate means potential lawsuits against the organisation and huge medical bills for the organisation. Thus, it is in the long term best interest of employers that they have their own workplace safety standards. They should also provide proper equipments to employees to allow them to work safely in potentially hazardous workplaces.

Finally, employees should also take some of the responsibility for workplace injuries and deaths. In many instances in the Maldives, employees can often seen working without wearing proper gear even if they had been provided by the organisation. Moreover, employees have the right to demand for proper gear and even refuse to work if they are not provided the proper gear and equipment to work in hazardous worksites.

The deaths of 5 young people, though sad it was, serves a good lesson for the government, employers and employees alike that workplace safety issues cannot and should not be over looked. The government bears the responsibility of legislating the laws, and craft proper work safety standards. Employers must abide by these safety regulations and incorporate work safety as integral part of their corporate HR strategy. Finally employees also need to take workplace safety issues more seriously and use proper gear and equipment while working in hazardous environments and demand or refuse to work if not provided.

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7 Responses to “Work Safety – Who’s at fault?”

  1. DrFreex said

    Good article. Welcome to the block

  2. Anonymous said

    I seriously thought that such a drastic tragedy was gonna be the wake up call for the government to finally do something about this…but no, thus far nothing has been implemented on workplace safety. Instead, they’re too busy trying to point the finger at each other.

    But we all know that we cannot totally rely on the government…unless of course something like this happens to someone related to the president… remember the time we were forced to wear helmets? It was something good that came out of the incident…but whatever happened to that rule I wonder?

    Maldivians tend to overlook such things when the frenzy of the moment passes…otherwise we would be more serious and careful when working in such environments if we already knew about such incidents, right? Snap out of it people! Who would think the best in your interest but you yourself?

  3. […] blogger Hamdun examines the issues concerning work safety in the Maldives. The state in any country bears the burden of legislating and implementing laws to […]

  4. mondae said

    thanks dr. freez.

    agree with you anon…

  5. demha ueebar said

    What a fantactic article this has been though the incident was critical. Similar to the aforementioned death there are uncoutable deaths & issues which comes into existence rapidly due to lack of knowledge & awareness. This [Workplace Safety Standards] has become a major issue which we need to bring to the kind attention of our superiors.

    My question is that who has to take an oath to promote and protect the fundamental rights of our citizens in order to discharge the responsibility and duties fairly, impartially and faithfully?

    Nevertheless, still there are certain rules & regulations set by the Government and our responsibility is to abide & adhere to the laws rather than pointing out fingers at them.

    Towards the end I would like to send my heartfelt gratitude to you for your support & the back up. Thanks a lot sir!!!

  6. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY: ACTION!NOW!!

    Job accidents can show you the gaps in your safety programs, procedures, and practices. That helps you see what you need to do to correct safety problems and improve safety performance.

    One of the best ways to understand accidents, correct safety problems, and prevent tomorrow’s accidents is to thoroughly investigate the incidents that occur today. In a successful accident investigation, you assemble evidence, interview witnesses and those involved, and then piece all this information together to try to understand why the accident happened and what you need to do to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.

    Employees play an important role in investigations. Here’s what to tell your employees about how they can help in an accident investigation:
    • Report all accidents and near misses right away. Even if nobody was hurt, your supervisor needs to know what happened so steps can be taken to prevent future problems.
    • If you witness an accident, try to remember what happened. Write down what you saw as soon after the accident as possible-what, where, when, who, and why.
    • Don’t disturb the scene of the accident. You could destroy valuable evidence that could help investigators figure out exactly how the accident happened.
    • Provide any information you have about an accident. Come forward right away and tell what you know. Your cooperation is essential to the success of the investigation.
    • Lend your expertise to the investigation. If you have special knowledge about the equipment or procedures involved, the circumstances surrounding the accident, etc., tell what you know and offer your suggestions.
    • Encourage co-workers to cooperate in accident investigations. Remind them that the purpose of an accident investigation is to prevent future accidents—accidents that could involve any one of them.
    • Join with co-workers to implement any corrective measures that come out of an investigation. Be sure to follow any new safety rules that result from an accident investigation.

    Accident reports also play a crucial role in preventing future incidents. Accident reports explain causes and recommend solutions. They should include at least the following information:

  7. Reggie said

    This is very helpful in referring to safety and what can be done to promote it. Laws are critical in setting guidelines, but employers should look at their company’s own circumstances and set their own policies accordingly.

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