LETTER | The call for zero accidents in the workplace in Malaysia by the Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran is a welcome call for occupational safety and health measures to be strictly practised 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 (BWI-MLC) is fully in support of the Vision Zero Malaysia campaign, that emulates the global initiative introduced by the International Social Security Association, but is 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 and employers too have an important role to play in ensuring that quality OSH measures are firmly in place as many times I have noticed safety equipment are of substandard or very poor quality that workers are unable to use them after a long period of time.
We only see the buckle of the safety helmet undone, but do we know if the buckle works?
Wearing a safety helmet without buckling it can be quite uncomfortable as it will be wobbling on the head and can impede the worker’s smooth functioning.
Of the 5,139 cases of occupational disease and poisoning reported to the health division of the Occupational Safety and Health Department in 2018, 4,506 cases or 90.12 percent, were occupational noise-related hearing disorders.
It will be illogical to say that all these workers intentionally discarded safety hearing protectors while working.
Similarly, DOSH investigated 5,031 occupational accidents last years 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 where DOSH investigated 62 deaths in this sector with 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 are in hardship, therefore willing to work through any circumstance.
It should not stop with “getting the message of safety across” but it is important that this campaign ensures that appropriate and durable safety measures are in place.
It is unfortunate that the DOSH statistics do not reflect clearly if migrant 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 that are considered dirty, dangerous and demeaning are safe for workers of any nationality to do especially because, often these workers are not unionised and have no one to look out for their wellbeing.
NOR AZLAN YAACOB is the secretary-general of the Timber Employee Union Peninsular Malaysia (TEUPM) and the spokesperson for the Building and Wood Workers’ International-Malaysia Liaison Council (BWI-MLC).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.