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Workers’ safety

Recommendations recently drawn up by the Oman Society of Contractors and which list nine criteria will substantially improve the working and safety environment of construction workers once implemented. These criteria include safety procedures, capability of staff, equipment used, project implementation record, quality control and financial strength. Perhaps no other category of workers faces the kind of hazards like construction workers, and almost on a daily basis. Not only are they people exposed to the elements all through the year, whether it is the pitiless, scorching sun, gusty winds and rain, or the cold, but there is also the ever-present risk of accidents on the jobs. It is against this backdrop that society has laid down these recommendations to ensure that blue collar workers are given a better deal. This comes like a breath of fresh air. For the present, the safety of workers depends on three factors – the client, the contractors and the regulator. But there are too many variables and imponderables in between that make it virtually impossible for any kind of foolproof system to fall into place. For example with three areas of accountability as it is, it is not too difficult to shift the blame from one to the other in the event of an accident, especially where there are fatalities.

Safety regulations with regard to equipment that workers have to handle or use as their personal kit like boots, helmets and overalls vary from one construction site to another. Then there is the question of how safety procedures are ignored or diluted when the contractors at the insistence of clients want a project to be completed in double quick time. In such circumstances, the workers have no choice except to follow orders. And situations like these are always rife with the possibility of death and disaster. The classification for contractors proposed by the society will prove beneficial to the Tender Board which can select the firms based on project suitability. This is also applicable to other players in the sector, making choice of firms an easy process. The Ministry of Manpower must make it mandatory for clients and contractors to strictly follow the regulatory guidelines. Instances of negligence must be made punishable under the laws of the land. Worker casualties due to willful neglect must be compensated adequately. To make the future of these blue collar workers more secure, some sort of a risk/accident insurance scheme must be immediately introduced, with at least 50 per cent of the insurance premium being shared by the clients and contractors. It has to be noted that the cost incurred for providing a safe workplace environment will certainly be lesser than what a firm or contractor would have to pay in the event of an accident. More than the financial aspect, social concerns too should get better weightage when decisions are taken. The labour law of land states that it is the employer’s endeavour to provide whatever is necessary to ensure that the workplace conditions are safe and healthy and workers are provided with safety equipment while performing their duties. Whenever there have been accidents, the Ministry of Manpower has dealt with the situation very seriously, thereby giving hope to the workers that they are taken care of.