Deputy director of the HCM City Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Office, Nguyen Van Minh, spoke with the Lao dong (Labour) Newspaper about the city's strategy to prevent accidents at work.
Why is there such a huge gap in the number of fatal work accidents that occur at private enterprises (76.6 per cent) and those that occur at State and foreign invested companies (3.19 per cent)?
It is mainly down to a lack of awareness of risks by labourers and employers. In private enterprises, owners have not paid enough attention to labour hygiene, workplace safety and fire prevention.
There hasn't been adequate communication with workers and some enterprises don't spend money on the necessary facilities to ensure workplace safety. Other enterprises have also failed to volunteer to work with audit centres to create a safer working environment for their employees.
On the workers' side, they are not aware of how to protect themselves due to lack of legal knowledge. They aren't aware that their right to safety is protected by law. They do not complain to employers even when they know that employers are violating their legal right to safety.
In many sectors, especially construction, with high fatality rates, workplace safety was severely limited because many workers were from rural areas and possessed very limited knowledge on how to ensure a safe working environment for themselves.
Is it feasible to reduce work accidents and work-related fatalities by five per cent in 2014?
The city's labour safety council set a target to reduce the number of work accident and work fatalities by 5 per cent in 2014. This year, more work and stronger steps should be taken to build awareness of work place safety not just during Labour Safety Week, but consistently throughout the year. The move is expected to boost the awareness of workers and employers.
Supervision and inspection must also be strengthened to detect and handle violations. We will closely supervise areas with co-operatives and production units. However, reducing accidents and fatalities in the workplace depends heavily on employers and workers embracing their responsibilities and lifting their awareness of safety.
What are the challenges associated with conducting inspections and preventing accidents in the workplace?
There was a shortage in the city's inspection force, especially at the district level. The city currently has more than 65,000 enterprises while there are only 15 inspectors at the city labour, invalids and social affairs office. There are also few inspectors working at the district level.
Inspectors mainly check issues relating to labour contracts, wages, shifts and labour hygiene and safety standards. Authorities only inspect, fine and ask for improvements in hygiene and safety if they find violations.
With such a modest number of inspectors, the office cannot monitor the whole city at the central and grassroots levels.
This is why encouraging workers to use the process at their disposal would help improve workplace safety in each district. If we can establish this and connect it with inspection teams, we can actively detect and prevent violations. — VNS