What gets measured, gets done.
April 28 is commemorated worldwide as a memorial day of workers killed on the job.
Health and safety provides a stark example of the gulf between the workplace entitlements enjoyed in the developed world compared to the developing world. Not only are safety standards so much higher, after decades of lobbying, but it is comparatively so much easier to show an employer’s liability and thus access some form of remedy.
A forthcoming report co-published by Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) and Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV) draws attention to some stark realities:
- Globally, occupational disease is a more serious problem than occupational injury, causing four times as many fatalities.
- One reason disease receives less attention is that it is less visible; deaths occur quietly at home, usually some time after cessation of duties, instead of publicly and dramatically at work. Also once a person stops work their contact with their union (if they belonged to one) usually ceases too.
- Another significant reason is under-reporting. The workplace death figures that many nations report to the ILO / United Nations are impossibly low. The reason is not that they are being intentionally evasive, they just don’t allocate the resources to measure the problem. In the Philippines for example, the government employs 235 labour inspectors to monitor 800,000 workplaces.
This is a limitation of the CSR approach to labour rights. Until such time as the world becomes much more transparent than it currently is, good intentions and flowery prose aren’t enough to improve people’s rights. A watchdog of some kind is needed, preferably a democratic union but at the very least some kind of impartial monitoring agency. If official statistics don’t show that there is a problem, it’s easy for officials to simply dodge the issue.
(To be continued. Next: Samsung’s Health and Safety record)