The other day, I started from my residence and was driving down to Mumbai City. I was horrified to see a workman carrying out a welding job. He was standing on a narrow wooden plank placed on 2 iron rods protruding out of an under construction flyover. He was standing at a height of almost 25 meters from ground (about 7 story building), without any Safety belt, helmet, Safety goggles, Safety shoes, or gloves. The rods and the plank were bouncing like springs and the workman was trying to balance himself. He was practically at the death door. In spite of my busy schedule that day, I parked my car near that under construction flyover and called the supervisor who was at the site.
At first the supervisor thought that I am some Government Officer who is related to the construction of the flyover. I told him that I was just passing by and saw the worker doing the welding job on the top and I need to speak to that worker. I also asked him if he can stop the work for about half an hour and call all the workers (some 20 in all), as I needed to talk to them. He agreed but asked me, what’s the matter? I told him that I just want to tell those workers some basic safe working practices. He ordered a tea for me and called all the workers. In about ten minutes some 20 of them and few odd people who were passing by gathered at that place. Initially he told me to talk to those workers just below that flyover itself, but I refused that, as very few of the workers were in their Safety Helmets. We went to a nearby tea stall and I was about to begin my talk.
..before I could say anything, just by looking at extremely bad condition of those workers I was deeply touched. I couldn’t begin with my words for first few minutes.
I started talking to them in Hindi. Looking straight in to eyes of almost every worker I asked them, ‘don’t you love your life’? I didn’t get any reply from any one as I was just watching their long and confused faces. I continued and asked them why they don’t use personnel Safety equipment such as Safety shoes, Helmets, Safety belts etc.? The supervisor replied that the contractor had provided very few worn out Safety equipment to them which were even not enough for all the workers. I almost shouted at him and asked as to why the workers are endangering their lives and working in such extremely unsafe conditions? I said at first place it’s the responsibility of each and every worker to take care of his life and in second place it’s the responsibility of the contractor.
I started talking to workers now; I asked them how much do they get paid per day? It was ranging from as low as Rs. 140 to Rs. 600. I asked the welding fellow if he can jump down off a 7 story building if I pay him Rs. 10,000. I asked if they have ever thought what will happen to their family if something happens to them. Why are you people risking your life? I asked. I told them that any accident which may happen or might have happened at this site can or could have easily been avoided, if they consider their life as a precious gift of god. I was drilling the matter in to their head for about 45 minutes to observe Safety before carrying out any job and they need to do this to protect their own life, for their own family, kids, parents etc. I told them not to take up any work which they feel is unsafe to do. I told them not just to consider Safety of their entire life, but even take care of their eyes by wearing a Safety goggle, feet by wearing Safety shoes etc.
To make them further aware of their own life Safety; I told them to keep a photograph of their family in their pocket if possible and see it or at least think about it before risking their life even a bit. I literally pleaded them to follow Safety while working. I told them not to work until their contractor provides them the Safety they need at site and in worst case scenario even leave the job, because nothing (even the job) is more important than their life.
“Safety First, there is no second chance”. This was the slogan which used to be displayed on Construction Sites of an Elevator Company with whom I started my career way back in 1987. In those days General Safety Rules were not so developed to provide a safe and healthy working environment for people.
I firstly object the word “RULES” which is associated with Safety. It should be replaced with “AWARENESS”. I strongly believe that if people are made aware about Safety & Precautions to be taken in day to day life; there won’t be any need to impose something called as ‘RULES”. No detailing is required, just briefing the basics is enough. By following Safety guidelines ‘they’ are securing ‘their’ own life. Safety of own self is essential, it’s a must. Like how we need food, clothing and shelter to survive, Safety is also a part to be practised and implemented in everyday living to survive.
If a person is made very well aware and educated by telling him that wearing a Safety Helmet while riding a bike will prevent him from serious head injuries, which in turn can save his life, the possibility that he will wear a Helmet is much more than telling him that if he doesn’t wear a helmet, he will be charged with a fine of Rs.100. Every motorcycle rider and even the pillion rider must wear a helmet whenever they ride. Wearing a Helmet by a Rider on Highway Roads is COMPULSORY, but the passenger or the Pillion Rider is exempted, from wearing it, sounds very funny and stupid to me. It disturbs me. Such a pathetic thinking level of our so called law makers!! Do they feel that in case of an accident, the Pillion Rider will not suffer any head injury and hence he need not wear the helmet? And why only on Highways? Will the rider not come across any accident on city roads, which will cause him a head injury? I see bike riders wearing windcheaters to protect their expensive shirts inside, but they don’t wear Safety Helmet to protect their Head & Skull.
Same thing goes with Safety Belt while driving a car. A survey shows that Car accidents are the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35. Safety belts can prevent death in about half of these accidents. If you know this and are still not wearing a Safety belt, you may need to ask yourself why not.
I would rather say, not only the driver or person sitting on front seat of the car must wear it, but if there is a facility of Safety belt at the rear side, people sitting at the rear side of the car also must wear the safety belt.
I will just share as to why everyone in the car MUST wear a Safety belt.
Imagine running as fast as you can – into a wall. You’d expect to get pretty banged up. Do you think you could stop yourself if the wall suddenly loomed up when you were two feet away from it? This is exactly the situation you face when the front of your car hits something at only 30 Kms an hour. The car stops in the first tenth of a second, but you keep on at the same rate you were going in the car until something stops you – the steering wheel, dashboard or wind shield – if you’re not wearing your Safety belt… Bad enough at 30 kms an hour, but at 60 Kms you hit “the wall” four times as hard as you would at 30. Or to put it another way, with the same impact you’d feel as if you fell three stories.
Don’t give stupid reasons for not wearing it……the belt is for your safety “wear it or die”….very common excuses –
“I’m only going to the shopping centre.” Actually, this is ‘the’ time to wear a Safety belt, a survey shows 80% of traffic fatalities occur within 50 Kms of home and under 80 Kms an hour.
“I won’t be in an accident: I’m a good driver.” Your good driving record will certainly help you avoid accidents. But even if you’re a good driver, a bad driver may still hit you.
“I’ll just brace myself.” Even if you had the split-second timing to do this, the force of the impact would shatter the arm or leg you used to brace yourself.
“I’m afraid the belt will trap me in the car.” Statistically, the best place to be during an accident is in your car. If you’re thrown out of the car, you’re 25 times more likely to die. And if you need to get out of the car in a hurry – as in the extremely tiny percent of accidents involving fire or submergence – you can get out a lot faster if you haven’t been knocked unconscious inside your car.
“They’re uncomfortable.” Actually, modern safety belts can be made so comfortable that you may wonder if they really work. Most of them give when you move – a device locks them in place only when the car stops suddenly. You can put a little bit of slack in most belts simply by pulling on the shoulder strap. Others come with comfort clips, which hold the belt in a slightly slackened position. If the belt won’t fit around you, you can get a belt extender at most car dealerships.
“I don’t need a belt – I’ve got an air bag.” Lucky you! An air bag increases the effectiveness of a Safety belt by 40 percent. But air bags were never meant to be used in place of Safety belts, since they don’t protect against side impacts at all.
Any ways, finally I concluded the meet with those contract workers by telling them that it’s up to them and them only to take care of their life as a prime and most important factor.
I noticed very few long faces before leaving that place.26