Sharing safety responsibilities
COMMENT: During the first week of June, a young contract worker was killed in a port in India. An inflated truck tyre exploded during handling operations and metal parts of the wheel assembly struck the 18-year-old victim with great force. The morning after the incident, I was on the first plane to India to lead the investigation, writes Wouter de Gier.
The investigation quickly showed that the wheel drum that was used by the tyre fitter was seriously corroded and should not have been used. It also showed that both the victim and the tyre fitter were working alone in the workshop, doing high risk work without adequate safety controls in place. As it turned out, both men were inexperienced young adults that had recently started working at a contractor company workshop in the port.
Contractors are experts in what they do; employers should not be telling them how to do their jobs. During the investigation however, I was grappling with questions such as: “Was the contractor aware of the risks?”; “How could these two young adults have been left to themselves”; “Should the employer have managed the contractor, or should the contractor manage itself?”
So how far does duty of care extend? This remained somewhat unclear and left me with an unsettling feeling.
What I have taken away from this tragic incident is that clarity is needed on how the industry manages and engages with contractors, especially those that carry out high risk activities. In my opinion, clear expectations around safety are vital and should be clearly documented. Agreeing who is responsible for what upfront and holding each other to account during the contract will result in a safer workplace for all and a stronger relationship with our contractors based on safety as a value.
Wouter de Gier is chairman of ICHCA’s Technical Panel.
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