Working without safety gear can be perilous.
The worker waited forlornly at the edge of the steel frame until a coworker handed him an acetylene welding torch for him to proceed to weld parts of the steel frame. All this happened in the space of 10 minutes and then this worker joined his coworkers to move on to other works on the steel frame. It's only when I was back at my computer screen to view the pictures that the reality started to sink in.
I saw the blue and white flame bursting out of the welding torch, the sparks showering the worker's bare hands, his naked eyes squinting warily at the point the flame meets steel, his teeth gritted and his lips pursed with the strain. His torso was bent sideways to protect him from the heat and risk of singeing. Picture after picture told the tale of a helpless and hapless worker doing very hazardous work with no protection whatsoever.
Forbes business magazine lists "structural iron and steel workers" at number five in the list of top 10 deadliest jobs.
Recommended for work of this nature are safety harness, goggles, ear plugs, leather gloves, leather jacket, leather boots, helmet and an industrial mask since the initial lighting of the acetylene gas produces large amounts of soot.
Every time this worker steps out for such jobs, clad in jeans, t-shirt and casual footwear there is a possibility of an electric shock, burns, breathing in toxic fumes, eye injury or a fall.
After the work was over and he was back on the ground, I went down and asked him why did he not use any safety measures. He replied, dejection rife in his voice, that he and his coworkers' requests for even basic safety equipment, like a harness, were dismissed by the company. Exploited, yet helpless, they carry on, resigned to their sorry fate.
There are employers that practice a "zero harm" policy and even go to the extent of penalising any worker found not wearing the prescribed protective gear. At the other end are greedy, unscrupulous, heartless employers who value human life no more than a piece of equipment to be thrown out if rendered unusable. These employers brazenly turn a blind eye to employee welfare but have 20-20 vision on anything that adds to the bottom-line.
It is this section of employers that needs to be identified, exposed, named, shamed and subjected to punitive and exemplary deterrents to ensure workers are treated as human capital and not as consumables.
The reader is a sales manager based in Dubai.
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