In many countries, adhering to safety is part of their culture. Last year, when I visited Singapore, I was surprised to find a signboard in front of a construction site reading that if public find that work rendered by them is not safe, they can report to the contact number referred. The visitors who wanted to have a look were promptly stopped at the gate and the security guard displayed a video describing all the potential hazards in the site and the precautions to be adhered to while touring inside.

Where do we stand in giving importance to managing risk to human lives? We have all the norms and the regulatory requirements are adequately addressed but they are not followed. At all construction sites, we find the excavations in the road are not barricaded; or, where bridges are under construction, the public keep crossing in the vicinity. Workers at construction sites are not aware of the hazards of working at heights, handling of hand-held power tools, the requirements of scaffolding, the use of protective equipment and the quality of lifting tools and tackles. Many workers are not aware of radiation hazards that may not seem to cause any physical harm directly but can cause chromosomal abnormalities or genetic mutation affecting the progeny. We as humans are selfish.

Mock fire drill

A few months ago, when I was in Hong Kong on a business trip, late at night I found a message slipped through my door stating that the next day at 11.30 hours a mock fire drill will be performed. The time was conveniently chosen so that in a business class hotel only a few guests will be left around that time. I stood back in the hotel the next day to witness the drill. It was amazing — a comprehensive exercise from evacuation to head counts of staff including guests, extending up to a check on the capability of the fire hydrant system’s reach to various corners of that lavishly spread hotel.

We debate at length in the media about imparting education on sex and the level it is to be included. Did we ever think of imparting safety as our culture at different levels in education? Is our project approval mechanism based on a review of the proactive measures by project owners in identifying the hazard and the risk associated to the personnel involved? When will the financial institutions insist on funding projects be it the housing sector or industry only after confirming that the organisations have adequately incorporated personnel safety in their system?

Scrupulous monitoring

Can there be a periodic monitoring of these bodies subsequent to providing such funding? We have regulatory bodies to review; this can further be strengthened if the financial institutions, say, the stake holders, are vested with such responsibility. We can see improvement in worker safety in the construction industry only if such measures are implemented.

Why don’t we believe in safety norms which can be seen and felt, and, if properly followed, will ensure our safe return home from work free from any potential hazard. This requires a cultural change.

One of the indicators that we compete with developed nations is the value we place on human life. This needs to be visibly seen at construction sites in terms of training and the adoption of safety standards as a routine. And this is possible only if we adopt safety as a culture.

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