Why safety takes a back seat?

Published - December 23, 2012 04:31 am IST

Unattended and loosely hanging electric wires are among the many hazards to the public. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

Unattended and loosely hanging electric wires are among the many hazards to the public. Photo: E. Lakshmi Narayanan

It is very disheartening that in spite of several laws, codes and stipulations by the government, we are witnessing so many accidents.

The need of the hour is to spread safety awareness so as to instil confidence in people that the government is very clear about enforcing all laws and regulations to avoid accidents.

The main focus areas are homes, where gadgets like LPG stoves, induction heaters and microwave ovens, if not used safely, could lead to serious accidents. The international precautionary indication is that LPG is strongly blended with smelling agents so that leaks are detected, but due to a lack of knowledge and awareness, timely action is not taken, resulting in nasty accidents and loss of lives.

Use of substandard electrical wires and switches, inserting wires into sockets without plugs and improper earthing are the main reasons for accidents due to electricity. It is advisable to use appliances of standard makes and which are BIS marked. The placing of air conditioners in the correct positions and using non-flammable switch boxes would avoid mishaps. The use of ELCBS and flame-proof wiring will assure us of safety from electric shocks at homes.

Safety audits

Safety in schools is of primary importance. Playground equipment, swimming pools, auditoriums and laboratories are to be professionally managed. Periodic inspections and safety audits are to be conducted by accredited third parties and the reports communicated to parents so as to reassure them that their children are in a safe atmosphere. Lab equipment and hazardous chemicals are to be handled after thorough training. Vehicular traffic involving children has to be monitored closely.

Safety levels in hospitals are not very encouraging either. Nurses, doctors and paramedical professionals need to be instructed and trained to handle emergencies especially patients in ICUs who are immobile. The use of oxygen cylinders, drugs and chemicals is to be entrusted to thoroughly trained technicians. Licence should be suspended if hospitals are found to be operating under unsafe conditions. Ramps should be available to safely evacuate patients who have to be moved only on stretchers and wheelchairs.

On the environmental front, manual cleaning of sewerages should be strictly avoided to put an end to loss of lives due to asphyxiation. Before sewers are cleaned, oxygen meters and hydrogen sulphide meters should be used to see if the atmosphere inside is safe to enter. Corporation officials should educate workers on this and train them to use these meters. Segregation of waste materials in garbage would be very helpful in avoiding fires and other accidents.

Trained personnel

Shopping malls, theatres, stadiums, amusement parks and other public places are very vulnerable to accidents as people are not informed of disaster management systems and emergency plans. If an accident happens, there would be a stampede and commotion leading to large casualties. In public places, fire prevention, alarm systems and fire-fighting equipment should be put in place and maintained by trained personal.

Industrial safety

Safety in industrial scenario is totally different. The Factories Act, the Explosives Act, SMPV Rules, the Electricity Act and various other laws clearly spell out the Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) issues. These laws are well thought-out and address all possible causes and effects and also stipulate punishment for non-compliance. But there is no indication of any step being taken in strict enforcement, going by the increasing number of accidents. The Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act specifies clear safety guidelines but implementation is poor .

The emergence of the latest technologies and gadgets brings additional risks. For instance, mobile phone towers generate waves which are harmful to the people in the vicinity.

Let not accidents teach us safety but at the same time let us learn safety from accidents.

(The writer is Honorary Safety Consultant, Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services. vensisu@yahoo.co.uk)

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