Occupational Safety and Health

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--By Dwaipayan Regmi

Almost twenty people die annually in Nepal at their workplace. Two million people in the world die annually in their workplace as counted by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

An employee or the average wage earner is at the bottom of the organisational ladder, and yet plays a key role in determining the future of an organisation. Then due to negligence or oversight, the employee loses his/her life, the organisation loses labour faced with a heavy loss of manpower. That clearly indicates the fact that Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is a very crucial factor that needs looking into. 

OSH deals with the safety of every single individual working in an organisation. All occupations have OSH issues. The chalks and markers used in classrooms are harmful for teachers, at the same time farmers are likely to be infected with the pesticides used in the farm. Police on traffic duty are harmed by the pollution on the roads and improper waste management at hospitals has been affecting doctors, nurses and staff.

Various obstacles stand in the way of proper OSH. Poor infrastructure is one, which can be seen during road construction as well. Chinese workers work in boots and helmets, while Nepali workers are seen bare foot without any safety gear. Lack of proper monitoring is the next reason. Regular quality inspections of goods are carried out, but employee inspections are rarely undertaken. Lack of safety tools in workplaces is another reason. We see buses with medical boxes, but it is filled with things like blankets and other paraphernalia. They hardly even have a plaster or bandages. 

We talk a lot about good ventilation and lighting but workplaces are built unwisely lacking proper light-ing as well as other things. Old, outdated equipment are found in offices across Nepal. Nepali organisa-tions also lack modern ideas. Farmers in Africa wear boots when entering farms, while Nepali farmers work barefoot. Again, those working in dusty places are not aware that they need a mask, while those working in noisy places are not aware that their ears can only resist a maximum of 90 db daily.

We lack adequate policies primarily because the only Labour Act of 1992 has mentioned only a few important aspects regarding this issue. Issues like health and safety, protection to eyes, protection from chemical substances, safety against fire and other elements are included. Even, if these issues were carefully addressed and proper implementation carried out, the problems would only be minimized to a certain degree.

There are various ways in which an employee gets affected, it could be Mental (harassment or loneliness); physical (high sound or lights); technical (lack of proper maintenance of equipment); chemical (use of liquids, chemicals, fertilizers); and ergonomics (posture, eye degrees).

Hence, all of these ways have to be considered and preventive solutions have to be followed. First of all, a strong policy needs to be built and that needs to be followed by proper implementation. Risk reducing infrastructures need to be promoted by organisations. There needs to be regular health checkup camps to ensure employees stay healthy. Awareness is the next important thing, because it is this lack of awareness, from both employee and employer, which has contributed to the issue. 

It should be understood that the nature of a job can hamper an employee’s health. Hence, job rotation is necessary. Occupational Safety and Health training can be provided to organisations time and again. And, ultimately, analysis of each single accident that takes place within the organisation is also necessary. Only when proper analysis is made, can one understand the defect and take control of it.

The way in which an employee enters the work place, should be in the same way when he/she leaves the workplace.

The writer is an MBA student in India and a youth activist, and blogs at dwaipon.blogspot.com. He can be reached [email protected]

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