Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Malaysia’s high worker death rate cause for concern

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Despite working conditions that are the envy of many abroad, Malaysia has failed to keep occupational fatalities low.
In fact, the seven deaths per 100,000 Malaysian workers is more than double the International Labour Organisation’s ratio of three per 100,000.
This places it almost at the centre of the spectrum, with high-end countries like Japan and the United States at 4.1 deaths per 100,000 and 4.6 deaths per 100,000 respectively, and low-end countries like Philippines and Thailand with 14 deaths per 100,000.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn, clearly unhappy with the statistics, wants to reduce the death rate to 3.5 per 100,000 workers by 2010.
"I further want Malaysia to become one of the safest places to work in the second decade of the 21st century," he said.
He hopes to do this by ensuring that employers and employees stick strictly to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) regulatory framework based on ILO guidelines.
"The current figures are unacceptable. Our figure is double the ILO ratio. We need to bring our worker death rate down by half by 2010."
Dr Fong said the focus would be on vulnerable sectors, including wood, construction, explosives, gas and chemicals.
"We will also implement this in other sectors where workers are exposed to hazardous waste and chemicals."
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right of all people to just and favourable conditions of work.
Yet, it is estimated that workers suffer 250 million accidents every year, with 330,000 fatalities, 160 million cases of occupational diseases and an even higher number of threats to workers’ physical and mental well-being, causing further suffering.
An occupational fatality is any fatal event that occurs at work with the victim being either an employer, employee, self-employed person, farmer or family member helping with business.
Dr Fong said the Government wanted to make OSH a mandatory expenditure in contracts and awards to further reduce the ratio.
He said Employment Strategies for Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) was the best concept and approach to be undertaken by countries to overcome challenges facing the country and the global economy.
He said Malaysia noted that OSH had become a core element of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda in recent years.
"Malaysia supports this as Malaysian workers and their families, like all others around the world, deserve a safe working environment."

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