Wed, 15 Jan 2003

Systematic measures needed to improve safety on the job

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian companies must take systematic steps to improve on- the-job safety if the country hopes to reduce the number of workplace fatalities from its annual level of more than 100,000.

"Almost every accident on the job is preventable but some entrepreneurs neglect the importance of safety," Roger Moore, president of the U.S.-based DuPont Safety Resources for the Asia Pacific, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

"Indonesian awareness of a safe work environment, therefore, still needs to be improved," he said.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri called on Indonesian companies on Monday to significantly improve the safety of their workers. She was responding to reports about the increasing number of fatalities occurring at the workplace.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization, the number of workplace accidents in Indonesia has steadily increased from about 82,456 in 1999 to 98,902 in 2000 and 104,774 in 2001. During the first half of 2002 alone, there were 57,972 workplace accident.

"A safe working environment can reduce the costs related to injuries, health problems and property damage. At the same time, such environments raise efficiency," Moore said.

Dupont's business development manager for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Susanto, said some business owners did not really care if their employees died or were injured on the job because it was easy to hire new people.

"They do not realize that when an accident takes place, let's say a worker gets injured by a machine, it automatically stops the company's production. This will also delay distribution," Susanto said. "And it also takes time and money to train a new person."

Susanto also said that he had found hotels in Jakarta with locked emergency exits.

"When asked what if a fire took place, a hotel employee simply said that the doors would be unlocked. In fact, in the middle of such an incident how could he think about opening the locked doors?" asked Susanto.

And some office buildings use stairways as storage areas, he said. "Some building managements keep furniture and other large items in the emergency exits, so that they cannot be used."

"Most people still think establishing a safe work environment means that they have to buy tools. But in fact, they could simply start with some very simple and basic steps on safety," Moore said.

These steps, he said, include ensuring adequate light in work areas and wearing gloves when handling chemicals.

Moore said taking adequate measures to ensure a safe work environment could help companies reduce workplace accidents by about 30 percent per year and increase productivity by 40 percent.