THE call for zero accidents in the workplace in Malaysia by the Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran (“Initiative key to social security, says Kula”, The Star, July 11; online at bit.ly/star_
workers) is a welcome call for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) measures to be strictly practiced in all sectors and an aim that is to be lauded for the welfare of workers and improvement of company efficiency.
The Building and Wood Workers’ International-Malaysia Liaison Council is fully in support of the Vision Zero Malaysia campaign, that emulates the global initiative introduced by the International Social Security Association. However, we are very disturbed by the statistic revealed by the minister that an average of three people die in Malaysian workplaces every day. Even a single death is unacceptable.
Employers have an important role to play in ensuring that quality OSH measures are firmly in place – many times I have noticed safety equipment is of such substandard quality that workers are unable to use them after a long period of time.
For instance, we can see the safety helmet has a buckle but it would be stored with the buckle undone so do we know if the buckle works? Wearing a safety helmet without buckling it can be quite uncomfortable as it will wobble on the head and can impede the worker’s smooth functioning.
Of the 5,139 cases of occupational diseases and poisonings reported to the health division of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) in 2018, 4,506 cases, or 90.12%, were occupational noise-related hearing disorders. It would be illogical to say that all these workers intentionally discarded safety ear protectors while working.
Similarly, DOSH investigated 5,031 occupational accidents last year of which 260 cases were deaths, with the highest number of fatal accidents occurring in Sarawak and Selangor.
The most dangerous sector is the manufacturing sector; DOSH investigated 62 deaths in this sector as well as 192 permanent disability cases and 2,969 non-permanent disability cases last year alone.
Hence, the behavioural change at the workplace that the Vision Zero Malaysia campaign is addressing must include the lackadaisical behaviour of employers toward the welfare of workers, many of whom have difficult lives and are therefore willing to work through any circumstance.
The campaign should not stop with “getting the message of safety across”, it is also important that this campaign ensures that appropriate and durable safety measures are in place.
It is unfortunate that DOSH statistics do not reflect clearly if immigrant workers are included in these numbers, as they are the most vulnerable workers and are exposed to the most dangerous environments in any sector.
The Vision Zero Malaysia campaign should ensure that even the “3D” jobs, the dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs, are safe for workers of any nationality to carry out, especially because these workers are often not unionised and have no one looking out for their wellbeing.
NOR AZLAN YAACOB
Secretary-General, Timber Employees Union Peninsular Malaysia (TEUPM)
Spokesperson, Building and Wood Workers’ International-Malaysia Liaison Council (BWI-MLC)
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