THERE is a common fallacy that occupational safety and health (OSH) are issues of concern only for those at workplaces and during working hours.
OSH has other far-reaching consequences that affect productivity and the lives of workers and their dependants, incur costs due to delay in completion of work, lead to increased insurance and other costs, and result in more demand for healthcare services.
This means OSH has long-term implications down the value chain.
The consequences of neglect in occupational safety and health have ramifications for society as a whole.
As such, it is welcome news that the government has rolled out the long-awaited Occupational Safety and Health Master Plan 2021-2025. This plan is much-improved compared to its predecessors.
The plan takes into account several factors that have changed our way of life since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among the more significant changes, as referred to by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday, is the fact that now almost all homes, cafés, and restaurants have been transformed into work spaces. OSH is therefore pervasive now.
Among the concerns emphasised in the master plan is the civil service and government sector, which are now required to show greater commitment to ensuring compliance with safety and health rules and regulations.
The public sector must set the example. It must show leadership by example.
Owners of small and medium-scale enterprises must embrace all aspects of the OSH Master Plan as their businesses form the backbone of the nation’s economy.
In this respect, there is no substitute for self-regulation. Following safe and tested practices begins with the individual, both at home and at workplaces. We must set our house in order first.
Self-regulation also requires acquiring adequate knowledge of the principles and practices of health and safety. This is where education plays an important role.
Perhaps the Education Ministry can consider including some universal principles in the school curriculum to inculcate safety and health consciousness at an early age.
It is proposed that to encourage SMEs and SMIs to embrace self-regulation, the government should allow companies to use their Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) contributions to implement self-regulation.
And then there is the question of empowerment. Factory owners must empower key employees to be the eyes and ears of the company to ensure that standard operating procedures for OSH are complied with.
This OSH Master Plan will only work if there is full commitment from all the parties concerned. Only then can we hope to see zero accidents at the workplace.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Alliance for Safe Community