Suicide at work reveals defective values

Suicides have risen at an Asian plant making Apple iPhones in midyear 2010, adding to a list of health, safety and PPE horrors in Asian culture, reports Australian safety technologist David Broadbent.

Apple said they had outsourced iPhone production to FoxConn, and claimed some staff jumped off the roof of the building to get compensation money for their families. We have heard that line before; ‘blame the worker’.

Conditions of employment are bad, and not communicated to workers, adding to disparaties in Asian health and safety culture. Many Asian families are losing their loved ones, due to workplace accidents and disease throughout Asia.

Most companies in Asia, including multi nationals, issue personal protective equipment (PPE) like clothing, masks, respirators, eye protection goggles, headgear, and hearing protection, of low quality and low price, that is not graded, used or accepted in Europe, SA, or USA. Thus some operators capitalise on cultural disparaties.

Several injuries result from inferior protection, typically at half the price of EU graded PPE.

I have just returned from another brief trip to Asia, to meet directors of the Hong Kong Safety Association and to further discuss implementation and integration of Safe-T-Net Technologies within a major multinational manufacturer. I use these opportunities to chat to people in planes, trains, buses and cars. I am committed to trying to add value to safety in Asia, where health and safety culture, values and practice differ widely.

A major multinational construction company skips out on health screening of members of their confined space teams, and do not provide checks for workers required to use respirators at work. I asked them why, and they said “we do not need to”. This same company provides appropriate health surveillance in those jurisdictions where they “need to”.

The value of a Chinese life, Indonesian life, Indian life, or any human life, in my view, is equal to my own. Yet workplace safety receives different levels of attention and budget, and employers do not attempt to inform and educate employees about consequences of exposure, the value of health and safety management, and global best practice.

An independent Indian rock carver on the road from Phondicherry to Chennai, does not use a mask to protect his lungs from silica dust. At a global cement brand some kilometres down the road, workers walk though clouds of silica dust without even face masks.

I appeal to employers with operational involvement everywhere, to place photos of their people and their families in their boardrooms, along with minimum health and safety baselines. –David G Broadbent, TransformationalSafety.Com

PHOTO; David Broadbent.

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