The Need to Improve Occupational Safety and Health Conditions

Recently in Hanoi, the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), in collaboration with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Network ASEAN, held an international workshop “Strengthening the system of occupational safety and health in hazardous industries”, to share the experience of building strategies, policies and laws on OSH among the member states. On this occasion, Vietnam Business Forum had an interview with Ms Nguyen Thi Thuy Nguyet, Deputy Head of the Labour Safety Department, MOLISA, concerning these issues. Anh Phuong reports
Please tell us about the purpose of this workshop?
The workshop focused on discussing and sharing experiences on measures to strengthen OSH in high-risk sectors; measures to protect workers; OSH Act construction and development of a culture of safety in business; some proposals of labor inspector’s for the construction of OSH Act in Vietnam; role of stakeholders in the process of promoting OSH in hazardous industries …
As the statement of Deputy Minister Bui Hong Linh of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), Vietnam is a country lagging far behind many countries around the world and the region in ​​occupational safety issues. And if Vietnam does not have the drastic measures to promptly intervene in the issue, it will be too late.
According to statistics of the MOLISA, the year 2012 saw 606 people die from occupational accidents, an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to 2011. Last year also recorded nearly 6,800 labor accidents, property damage was VND11 billion and the cost of compensation of up to VND82.6 billion. However, the actual number may be higher than 40,000 accidents annually.
Accordingly, the hazardous industries include: mining, construction, chemical that likely occur most occupational accidents.
In your opinion, is unguaranteed working conditions is a main cause leading to the accidents mentioned above?
In fact, according to the investigation of the Inspectorate of the MOLISA, in 2011 alone almost half of the businesses under investigation did not make up the profile and mine design. In addition, through the inspection of the OSH regulations, the results were also not very positive, only 59.86 percent of organizations did OSH training for employees; 11.57 percent of enterprises having periodic reports on OSH. In particular, only 150 enterprises, quarrying facilities were inspected (accounting for only 6.25 percent of the number of licensed quarrying businesses). Among them more than 50 percent of businesses that violate the regulations on OSH.
For example, in the high-risk potential as quarrying, due to economic interests at the forefront, the number of licensed units in the country was 2378 units and the labor force working in this sector currently accounts for 2.1 percent of the total labor force. However, occupational accidents and occupational diseases in the quarry have a tendency to increase at serious level. According to MOLISA statistics in recent years, the number of occupational accidents occurring in the field of mining always accounted for high proportion (about 18 percent of total cases). One notable thing is that the serious fatal occupational accidents in recent years mostly occurred in the quarrying sector. In addition, the number of occupational diseases in the quarry also accounted for high proportion of the current occupational diseases in Vietnam (about 5-6 percent). Accordingly, in particular, they are silicosis and noise-induced deafness. According to the Ministry of Health, by the end of 2011, the number of occupational diseases in Vietnam was 27,246 people, of which 74.49 percent had silicosis, 16 percent occupational deafness.
A similar situation also occurred in the construction industry. The rate of labor accidents and occupational diseases tend to increase year after year.
Labor accidents and occupational diseases in the production and use of chemicals are also a very serious extent. For example, poisoning, toxicity occurred in the production facilities that use chemicals such as plastics production, packaging printing, and leather.
Did the problems happen due to loose supervision?
It is also one of the main causes of this situation. The management practices of the State in occupational safety in Vietnam still have many gaps and are not tightened. By December 2011, there had been 430 inspections, including indirect force while the number of businesses, manufacturing facilities were nearly 600,000, so the annual inspected firms were very little and did not meet the requirements of production. However, after checking the business also did not fix the violations and monitoring of inspection did not detect this and urge the remedy.
So in your opinion, what solutions do we need to solve this problem?
At the conference, many people agreed that in order to minimise occupational accidents, Vietnam should soon improve the State management of OSH. The MOLISA recently researched in drafting the Law on OSH to propose to the National Assembly in early 2014, but the draft also are facing many difficulties.
Another immediate problem is that the compliance with OSH laws of most of businesses today is very weak, especially in the area of ​​small and medium enterprises, agricultural areas, villages. Most of the actors are only interested in major terms of the Labour law to avoid punishments but have not paid attention to guiding documents of the implementation. On the other hand, the state management agencies have overlapping decentralisation in the field of OSH. Vietnam does not have a clear set of criteria to test the safety of machinery and equipment used in labor. Investment cost for the enterprise ensures OSH is also very limited, short and weak.
In my opinion, only when solving the problems above, can we partly improve and enhance OSH requirements.