Deputy Director of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs' Labour Safety Department Nguyen Anh Tho spoke with Vietnamplus about the recent series of fires and explosions caused by welders.
What are the main reasons for the recent fires and explosions that have caused large losses of human life and property?
In the past year, we have witnessed a number of serious fires and explosions, such as the fireworks blast in northern Phu Tho Province that killed 24 people and injured 97; the garment factory fire in northern Bac Giang Province that destroyed thousands of vehicles.
Other cases include the fire that damaged a rubber mattress factory in northern Bac Ninh Province and the latest blast at a bar in downtown Ha Noi's Zone 9 Complex that killed six workers.
The causes of these cases were careless welders who violated regulations on fire safety and prevention. They didn't cover flammable materials or isolate the welding area.
They also didn't know how to stop the blaze using fire-fighting equipment. As a result, small fires have broken out, with heart-breaking consequences.
Most welders in small-sized workshops are not well-trained. They learn their apprenticeship from senior workers, lacking both skills and knowledge of fire prevention strategies.
What have the authorities done to reduce the potential risks from welding?
The ministry has issued the national standards on labour safety missive, covering welding-related jobs and these are among the list of careers that are under strict control.
All workers are required to be trained on labour safety and take examinations to obtain certificates before starting their job. There are also inspectors who check the implementation of these regulations.
However, big fires are still occurring. This is because the implementation of the regulations and their dissemination remains incomprehensive and ineffective. A shortage of inspectors also exacerbates the situation.
Moreover, enterprises who hire welders pay little attention to their qualifications, work experience and labour safety skills.
In near future, the ministry will co-operate with the Ministry of Public Security to compile a list of factories, entertainment spots and crowded places where flammable materials are present.
Owners of these places will be required to gain approval from the authority, which must ensure that fire regulations and explosion prevention are put into place before construction works begin.
Owners will be held responsible if the authority finds a fire caused by the hiring of unqualified welders.
There are many migrant labourers who are willing to do the job without labour safety methods and many employers who ignore it. How can the ministry ensure safety for these labourers?
I must say that this group of labourers' awareness cannot be changed in a day. For them, nothing is more important than their livelihood, so a process of educating them and training them will work, but it's bound to take time.
In the future, the ministry will organise free training courses for migrant and non-professional labourers, in addition to the leaflets we've already sent.
The ministry will also set up a legal framework to fire prevention and fighting practices compulsory.
What will the ministry do to tighten controls over labourers' employers?
We are drafting strong measures for the Law on Labour Safety. For careers with a high risk of accidents, fires or explosions, employers must have their building plans approved by relevant authorities and can only hire qualified workers with labour safety skills.
New regulations on labour safety will be stricter and clearer. The training on this issue must be improved. Both workers and employers will have to join training courses and obtain certificates.
The fines for violators have been increased to hundreds of millions of dong. This shows that we mean business. The challenge now is for the authority to strengthen its inspections and discover violators before unexpected incidents occur. — VNS