Development at what cost?
Posted on January 1st, 2011

Sasanka De Silva,

Letters to the Editor,
Lanka Web,
Colombo.

Dear Sir,

Development at what cost?

Yesterday, I was shocked and amazed to see the safety regulations being openly violated at the Matara-Colombo Hi-way construction site situated at Makumbura.

The workers were allowed to work on machineries, carry heavy items etc without the proper Personal Protective equipment.

Except for Hard-hats, no other protective equipment has been provided to any of the staffs working at this site.

When I tried to communicate with one of the foreign nationals overseeing the operation at this site to raise my concerns, he was pretending not to understand a word of English.

I am sure those who have accepted the BOT (Build/Operate & Transfer) contracts are aware of those safety concerns and given enough provisions to fulfill all the requirements prior to acceptance.

I also wonder where the government Health & Safety inspectors were.

Development is necessary but at what cost and on whose expense are important questions that we need to ask when such flagrant violations being committed openly.

Sasanka De Silva,

Makumbura,

Pannipitiya,

Sri Lanka.

6 Responses to “Development at what cost?”

  1. Siri Says:

    I would like to find out from Mr. de Silva whether he is a qulified safety officer and from which country? I worked in Sri Lanka in the early 60 s for 17 years and not even hard hats were given at that time. Now I see that this is in use in the work sites. In western countries workers are forced to use certain safety items and the safety business has become very expensive. I believe that workers must be given a safety training before being allowed to enter a work site, but worksite safety is a personal issue. Workers need to be trained to use proper equipment when necessary, but not blindly follow the west in everything they do. The safety business in the west is driven by suing for injuries and contractor’s are trying to reduce their high insurance premiums by making workers use all kinds of safety equipment. This drives construction costs up without actually benefitting the worker. From statistics it cannot be shown that there has been a substantial reduction in worker accidents. However the department of labor should stipulate the minimum safety gear needed and also have a worker training programme in work site safety.
    When I came to the USA thirty years ago only hard hats and work boots were required. In the mid 80 s the safety programmes were introduced. I have followed all these programmes and received certifications. Now they go as far as making workers wear work gloves and eye protection. All this safety training is the best way to reduce accidents and workers have to be provided the personnel protective equipment depending on the type of work involved. However I do not believe that there has been a substantial decrease in worker injuries by using more safety equipment.

  2. KingSasanka Says:

    I am unable to fathom what my credentials and qualifications have to do with this issue.
    No doubt the costs will increase with such Programmes and that was the whole point of the argument.
    The writer only talks about accidents but has failed to address the issue of deficiencies and or injuries that are surfaced long after the initial exposure/s.
    Putting workers through Safety training is the right way to go about on such issues, he argues but putting them through Safety training but not providing the necessary gears will not bear fruits.
    Perhaps such elaborated Safety Programmes may not show their usefulness immediately and not having immediate gratification does not mean that such Programmes have no benefits to workers, as he tries to imply.
    Performing one’s task in a safe environment reduces accidents/incidents and most importantly greatly helps to reduce many health and other issues usually surface after long time when non in noncompliance of such requirements.
    One has to ask whether you need only the development or whether the same can be achieved while ensuring the long-term health of the people.
    If the only deciding factor is the cost and Health, Safety & Environment related issues are sidelined, ignored and or are compromised, the net effect of such efforts become ultimately useless, even if the learned writer agrees with me or not.

  3. Ranawaka Says:

    As a response to Mr de Silva’s important issue regarding the wearing of personal protective equipments(PPE’s) at any kind of work site,Mr Siri from USA was trying to publish his personal profile, instead of addressing one of the sensitive areas which developing countries have neglected. Of course in1960’s there were no development & construction projects in Srilanka like we have now and the present situation is different with the growth of population & necessities.
    Therefore this matter should consider as a long term social & environmental issue and should not looked at this from financial point of view.

  4. De Costa Says:

    Ranawaka and Sasanka are correct. You don’t have to be a “safety trained” – if you do so you become a Siri.
    Common man’s safety awareness is the ultimate aim of all training. Funny how Siri does not know this. For his information – safety boots is more important than the hard hat.
    I saw in a cricket match how our worker ran in with slippers to mend the pitch with a hammer and other tools. World cup coming soon , cricket authorties ( so rich) must take immediate steps to introduce a good PPE for them.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    It is a good idea to raise Awareness on Worker Safety, and put at least some Safety Regulations in place.

    In a tropical country like Sri Lanka, dust is a hazard to health. Safety glasses, dust masks should be worn by workers. Hard hats, safety shoes, ear protection devices, overalls, gloves, etc. all fall into the same category. We should have industries producing these goods to supply Lanka & SE Asia.

    With foreign investment coming into Lanka, we had best put some Worker Safety Regulations in place. The Chemical Industries especially has to monitored carefully.

    The entire area of Bhopal, India, was affected through lack of Safety Awareness in 1984. I do not think the villagers were even aware then just how hazardous pesticides are. Here is an account of what happened in Bhopal, India :

    “The Bhopal disaster (also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy) is the world’s worst industrial catastrophe. It occurred on the night of December 2–3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. A leak of methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals from the plant resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release.[1] Other government agencies estimate 15,000 deaths.[2] Others estimate that 3,000 died within weeks and that another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.[3][4] A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries”.

  6. KingSasanka Says:

    Glad to know that such issues are much talked about in forums like this but I am sadden that they are seldom talked about in Sinhala forums such as this, where the participation is much higher and the chances of successfully driving the point home is greater in such forums.
    Lately, I have been listening to some of the recently mushroomed Sinhala FM Radio channels and I feel that they are failing in their social responsibilities by not making any serious effort to educate their audiences more of such important issues.
    Entertainment wise they are appealing to the masses and if important HSE (Health, Safety & Environment) messages can be given out laced with entertainment in their successful potpourri formula, the chances of successfully putting the message across is greater.
    Over to you (Sinhala FM Radio channels Jockeys), If you are reading.

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