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No wrong step

“Be safe” is no more a war cry. It is a peace cry too. Especially now. Practically every conversation or communication ends with this peace cry. Now everyone from three-year-olds understand the message. Is it only in letter?

My mind time travels back 60 years. Working in a research organisation, I was given the additional responsibility of a safety coordinator, an unwanted baby for most colleagues. I think I had done the right thing to accept this addition to my research. It did not require much time but it provided me an opportunity to look up books or journals on industrial safety.

The tasks were simple. To organise safety drills and mock exercises and prepare work-specific pamphlets along with safety authorities. Monthly reports of accidents and number of accident-free working days would be sent from our organisation to the Industries Department. In the event of a major accident involving loss of life and property, the coordinator was called upon to assist in investigations. In one such accident, my junior colleague died on the spot, having inhaled a large amount of a chemical. This accident and the suicide of his wife within a couple of days created an impact in me to carry the message of safety everywhere including homes. Naturally my wife became the target at home, who felt I was overdoing it. Many people ignore the fact that both kitchen and bathroom harbour potential safety hazards.

The system of ombudsman is unfortunately not practised in our country. If it were, the police would have received a pile of reports from safety-conscious citizens on road users endangering themselves and others.

In nuclear establishments, the conventional safety requirements will be augmented by additional stricter surveillance and control of operations. Fail Safe was the criterion introduced in the nuclear industry, meaning if the system fails on any account, the workplace and people will be protected by suitable measures. Three Mile Island (1979), Fukushima (2011) and Chernobyl (1978) are in our memory in order of increasing magnitude of damage to life and health.

I moved from the research organisation to a large engineering and manufacturing organisation making power-generation equipment. Though the nature of my main job changed, the task of coordinating safety was an added responsibility again.

Pandemic concerns

The entire globe is in a pandemic and hence must learn to make every day a safety day (not only March 4, World Safety Day). Starting with public health workers, epidemiologists, virologists, scientists in research laboratories, manufacturers of drugs or vaccines, people engaged in storage and distribution of vaccine and drugs and medical and paramedical officials in administering the drugs and vaccines, all have a crucial role to play in taking care of “unsafe conditions” for community and people. Enforcement agencies such as the police can only catch offenders and fine them as per law. That is not the end of the matter.

The safety measures constantly being drilled through media are adequate for facing the current pandemic. Following these rigorously and religiously is everyone’s responsibility. We owe it for our sake, for the sake of our children and the humanity at large.

lakshmibashyam@yahoo.com


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 1:42:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/no-wrong-step/article37838755.ece

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