Nguyen Anh Tho, deputy director of the Work Safety Bureau, tells Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper that better figures over the years do not lessen the torment of labour accidents, whenever they occur.
Some say workplace accidents in Viet Nam have reached an alarming level. What is your response to this?
In 2014 alone, Viet Nam had 6,705 workplace accidents, which killed 630 people and injured 1,544.
However, if we look at the frequency of workplace accidents per 100,000 people, the frequency is lessening. This does not mean we don't care or feel tormented whenever we hear about an accident. We want local governments, trade unions and employers to learn more about occupation safety and health, as well as fire and explosion prevention, so they can cut down the number of accidents.
In your opinion, why are workplace accidents increasing?
According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), more than 73 per cent of recent accidents were attributed to employers' poor enforcement of labour safety laws. Workers' knowledge about safety is also poor.
Another factor that should be mentioned is the increasing number of big enterprises that require a huge number of workers. That increases the potential for workplace accidents.
Many people have complained that a lot of enterprises have not paid enough attention to labour safety. What do you think about that?
I have to concede that employers' investment in labour safety is rather limited. According to a survey conducted by the Bureau for Safe Work from MOLISA, only a few enterprises have paid attention to work safety, including Vietnamese oil and gas enterprises; and European, Japanese and South Korean enterprises. Meanwhile, Vietnamese small and medium enterprises have not created a safe environment for their workers.
In addition, authorities haven't conducted their workplace safety inspections properly. After all, there is a shortage of inspectors. Viet Nam has about 500 trained labour inspectors, but only one third of them work in the field of labour safety.
Some people say administrative sanctions levied on enterprises that violate labour safety laws aren't strong enough. What are your thoughts on that?
I think penalties doled out by labour authorities these days are totally in line with our law. However, in the context of a rapid increase in the number of labour accidents, I think other ministries should co-ordinate with MOLISA to help employers more strictly implement the law. The ministries should heavily penalize employers who violate the law, resulting in fatalities.
In your opinion, how can we cut down on accidents in the future?
I think the first thing we have to do is launch a campaign to raise employers' awareness about labour safety procedures. To do this, we should organise training workshops for employers with emphases on occupational safety and health.
Secondly, each enterprise should create a team that specialises in occupational safety. Though the law addresses this, not many enterprises have complied.
And finally, the employers must organise training courses for their employees on occupational safety and health, and provide them with proper gear. — VNS