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Opinion: Work safety a must
( 2002-07-05 10:19 ) (1 )

Workplace safety must be a priority in China. Too many work related accidents are in the news, and the numbers are increasing.

This trend is not unique to China however. Many Western countries have seen large increases in industrial accidents, despite the adoption of more safety procedures and policies.

More safety awareness, safety training, and safety equipment should be promoted. Companies should task their managers to actively create a change of attitude on safety at all levels. Workplace accidents can be avoidable with dedicated safety management.

Accident statistics should not be as high as they are. What is needed is a national safety awareness programme that communicates a workplace safety message.

Much of workplace safety is common sense, and does not necessarily mean a huge increase in budgets if properly communicated to workers. It is also everybody's responsibility to see that safety procedures are followed at all times.

Every company should have a "safety objective" as their mission statement that includes an accident free work environment objective in all industries.

We should be critical of companies that have safety procedures and policies in place, and fail to enforce them or communicate them to workers. This is just lip-service in place of their responsibilities.

It is this very scenario that sees excessive accident statistics in the West where legislation is considered strict, but records still show workplace accidents continuing to rise drastically.

New Zealand is a classic example of workplace safety legislation not working. While companies create policies, they lack active safety management in the workforce. Their fatality rate has doubled in the past year.

Why? It is because of the very policy of advocating safety, but neglecting to effectively communicate safety. Many companies put policies in place thus covering employer responsibility should an accident occur. This is geared at putting the onus on the worker to abide by rules, but without regular safety communication, and structured "safety induction" training, this amounts to negligence of management.

This must be stopped.

Due to the escalating statistics in New Zealand, a group of prominent construction companies in 1999 organized a safety training organization. Their objective is to reduce deaths and injury in the construction industry.

Foreign companies in China enjoy lower expenditures for their dollar invested. In turn they should invest more in the safety and welfare of Chinese workers who earn them the dividends they pay to their shareholders.

In the event of accidents at the workplace - they should ensure the injured are compensated at the same level as personnel in their own countries.

With China poised to expand construction, such as for the Beijing Olympics, the time to address these issues is now.

Accidents do not just happen. They occur because a hazard existed, and nobody took the time to eliminate or minimize the risk. Accidents are preventable, and a total change of behaviour and commitment is needed to ensure this lack of safety awareness is communicated on every level on a regular basis. It's that simple.

Accident statistics are a good way to shock managers and staff about the risks. We have to instill in them the need for their own responsibility for the people who work under them.

For example, in 1995, 279 workers died from height related falls in Malaysia. In 1999 this figure became 387 - an increase instead of decrease.

These numbers were only for height related deaths from falls, and the total number of deaths and accidents were much higher. These death figures are comparable to a jumbo jet crash which is considered a national disaster. This too is a national disaster.

The author currently works as a safety manager in the Asia Pacific area



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