A brief discourse on Occupational safety

( I may stop political bloggings but i shall talk more on socio economic issues, since to some die hard fanatics that I do not qualify to speak on the shortcomings of the present govenrment. Today, I shall talk about an area which I have some expertise and which I may be as good as anyone in the country at least where theory is concerned.)

There is a branch of medicine that is called occupational medicine, which treats occupational diseases, a big term for workplace illnesses and accidents. It has evolved to include prevention of accidents and occupational diseases, and adoption of safety measures and procedures to reduce the risk of workplace diseases and accidents. It has thus evolved to covered what is now known as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH).

A simple example is ‘low backache’ due to a sitting in a badly designed chair. So for clerical staff and typists and receptionists, they need to be provided with ergonomically designed chairs to prevent low backache. In fact, low backache among office workers are very common , and in most cases, are due to badly designed chairs which encourage bad postures and slouching.

Central to occupational safety is what we called “hazards”.Hazards are things with potential of causing sickness and accidents. For example, a pot hole in the ground is a hazard, for anyone walking or riding a bike over the pot hole may end up in a nasty fall and sustain injuries.

So to safety specialists , the main theme is to remove hazards wherever it is possible.

In the example of a pot hole, the hazard can be removed by repairing the pothole. But at times, the hazard may not be easily removed. For example, the pothole cannot be repaired in time for certain reasons, the hazard can be replaced by a lesser hazard, for example putting a tong in front of the pothole so that people would not walk directly into it. By itself, a tong in the walkway or a drive is also hazardous, but since it is more visible, it can be used temporarily to reduce the risk of a more serious hazard, that is the pothole.

Some times a hazard cannot be removed. Night driving is a form of hazard since night is the time when our body needs sleep and rest, apart from decreased visibility. Since this is the type of hazrd that cannot be removed, we need to formulate procedures to reduce the potential of accidents during night driving. Procedures such as ensuring the vehicles have sufficient lights to illuminate the roads, procedures on checking the braking systems, procedures ensuring that all seats belts are being fastened before the vehicle can be given the nod to move.

There must be procedures to ensure that the driver is healthy at that time of driving ( not just at that time of medical checkup which is required by law once a year only). If the driver reports that he is not well, there must be replacement for him. There must also be procedures that the driver has sufficient sleep. If the driver has not enough sleep, he should be replaced.

Then there must be procedures that after certain minutes of driving, the driver needs to stop over to rest. Some times just to stop to break the monotonousness of driving. Lets face it. All jobs, in the eyes of occupational speicialists, are repetitive and all repetitive jobs will become monotonous.

Once a job becomes monotonous, the risk of accidents increased ten folds, since monotony leads to boredom and boredom leads to sleepiness or decrease in alertness and reaction time.

The same safety procedures are adopted by airlines for their pilots. For those of you who have followed National Geographic channel’s ‘air crash investigation’, there were a few instances where investigators found that pilot errors were the cause of air crashes, and in most of these instances, pilot fatigue leading to judgement errors were  the causes.

Looking at the Malaysian scenerio, most companies do not have any occupational safety measures or procedures. The onus is on the company management to provide such measures or procedures.

In the case of  bus drivers or drivers of other public service vehicles such as taxis, they do go for the once a year medical examination. But passing the medical examination does not guarantee the health of the driver involved. He may be healthy and alert at the time of medical examination, but he may suffer from lack of sleep a week later which leads to decrease in alertness and hence increases the risk of accidents.

So it is not enough just to send drivers for a yearly medical check up. The company must adopt a policy of ensuring the safety of their passengers and workers, and once the safety policy is spelt out, there must be program to implement the policy; program such as safety procedures which everyone must adhere to.

So there must be procedures to ensure that the drivers have enough rest between trips. There must a procedure to educate the driver to report any lack of sleep and sleepiness.. Driver fatigue is the main cause of bus acccidents. The drivers must also report any unusual sounds coming from the vehicles .

But companies would not take the initiatives to put in safety program and safety procedures. The onus is for the government to legislate laws and rules to enforce them to adopt such safety procedures. And laws must be enforced for them to be effective. There must be adequate surveillance to ensure that all laws and safety procedures are adhered to.

Besides that, litigation from the victims of accidents (or victims’ families) will serve as a motivation for the companies to adopt safety procedures. If each accident victim sues the bus company and driver for negligence after an accident caused by lack of such safety procedures, the companies will learn the hard way to adopt and implement such procedures.

SO victims in workplaces, get a lawyer to sue and you will help to prevent the occurrence of accidents in future.

( The writer is writing on occupation safety , a subject which he has some expertise  and hopefully more employers will realise the importance of adopting safety measures for their staff…It is actually more cost effective to have a safe workplace,including vehicles, since with accident payouts and increase insurance premium, it would be cheaper to provide staff with safety measures, as in Australia and other western countries where every business with more than 15 staff must have occupational safety policy and program to implement safety procedures. On top of cost, the most important thing is of course human lives, once lost cannot be replaced).

next i shall talk about the US flight 253 where safety procedures were breached at Amterdam airport, one of the airports with the best security procedures..


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. klm
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 15:05:37

    Dr. Hsu. Without the politics, it will be dull.


  2. EL
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 15:25:44

    The scenario that you mentioned about Malaysian scenario is pretty relevant. The Malaysian authority and the Malaysian companies are so superficial in their health and safety practices and then brag that they have this and they have that. And you recommend that strict enforcement ? Hahaha, if we have to line up the number of issues that we need strict enforcement, health and safety practices will have a long queue ahead of it !! And you recommend litigation ? Waaoo …. you may not have experienced cases where multi-nationals and big companies not taking heed of industrial court awards and dragging the cases to civil courts. You probably cannot imagine the poor workers not having good access to legal representation or even the financial means to engage a lawyer. As far as lawyer is concerned, you have to pay first, win-or-lose ….
    There are really so many many issues in the health and safety aspect of the Malaysian work environment. I can quote you many but we will not have enough space …hahaha


  3. Meng
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 15:51:33

    Strict measures in malaysian culture are temporary in nature. After a certain period, it is back to square one. Remember sometime back after a nasty express accident, JPJ were in all bus station to check on bus drivers and some trips were also accompanied by their staff. After a month no more checking…Thats our culture and attitude.

    The problem we do not have dedicated enforcement staff…all cari makan types…


  4. Dr Hsu
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 15:56:54

    Let it be dull… As I have said, there are many others who have taken up bloggings, it is high time to support those newer candles.. I will have more time travelling and dabble in my pastime of investing, which I have not done for quite a long while, as well as travelling…


  5. Richard Loh
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 16:15:49

    Dr. Hsu,

    I seldom visit a doctor unless the sickness is really really intolerable. I have always doubt about the medications given. Where are the medication supplies for clinics and hospitals come from? Through sales man or from the government controlled pharmacies and agencies? Do the government vet through and tested all the medication supplies before they are allow to be distributed?

    This is a little off topic and maybe you may want to write something about it. If this medication thing is somewhat private and cannot be divulged, it’s ok.



  6. klm
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 16:39:57

    Dr. Hsu. I get your message. But I can bet that you cannot get politics out of your system. You will come back to this subject, sooner rather than later.


  7. Dr Hsu
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 16:45:07

    Richard Loh

    Firstly, medicines are all imported, either in the form of finished products such as tablets and capsules, or in the form of raw materials (power) which the local manufacturers make them into tablets.

    For those medicines which are imported, you can have the original brand (called ethical products) or the generic products. Ethical products are original manufacturerswhich did research and came up with the products. But once the patent period is over, other companies, some of them very reputable, will manufacture the same medicines and they are called generics.

    Overseas in the states and canada, generics can be as good as the original, but they are much much cheaper since they do not have to foot for R& D.

    In those countries, both ethical and generic products are controlled by FDA. which is an authority which determines the quality and safety of the drug.

    In Malaysia, all drugs (western medicine) have to be registered with a similar authority called the DCA (Drug Control Authority). For a drug to be approved in Malaysia, the importers will have to show the research papers and the side effects profiles, and some of them submit FDA approved papers to our authority.

    So most drugs in use is well controlled. Even those who import raw materials and make the tablets or capsules or the syrup locally, they have to submit efficacy papers ( papers with research showing how much and how fast it is absorbed and excreted by our system) as well as research papers done overseas on that medicine.

    Government hospitals sourced their drugs through middle man companies. These middle man companies will invite tenders from private companies and normally they will buy at very very low price compared to the private doctors. The middle man companies then sell it to the Ministry of Health.. Needless to say, middle man companies belonged to certain people with connections and they would make a lot of money since they almost monopolise the supply to the government sectors which use huge amount of medicines. ( Unfortunately, most of these medicines are wasted since many people who go for treatment at government hospitals tend to take a few doses and then throw away the rest. Since they do not pay for the medicine, they do not really appreciate how much tax payers are paying for these medicines).


  8. Nick
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 17:06:53

    Dr. Hsu, the substance of your blog will change and you will lose many readers if you divert away from politics. What is life in Malaysia if you don’t have politics? Our Country was drifting under Pak Lah and now Najib is attempting to steer a steadier course. But it may be too late. We need a younger “bus driver” to take over as the journey is long and arduous. We also need honest bus conductors as the ones we had ‘sold’ the spare engines for a quick buck. The bus company also short-changed its workers because the owners stole all the funds of the Company leaving little left for maintenance and workers welfare.


  9. Nick
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 17:14:02

    Sorry, my thoughts were distracted. Resuming where I left off, there is no one at the helm thinking about “customers safety and protection”. You see, there are 2 classes of passengers, one ‘fare-paying’ and the other buta. The bus conductor looked at their IC and wink and told them it was a “free ride”. how many free rides did the Company gave? So much until the Company is now broke. In fact, many of these buta customers soon directed the bus to journey into places where they are not supposed to be, wasting more fuel. When they went back to the depot, there was no need for any accountability (like our AG’s Report of malfesance). I think it would be better for this Bus Company to sack the entire lot (owners and drivers & conductors) and recruit new owners (PR) to take over. Sorry, Dr. I can’t help myself since I am addicted to your political blog.


  10. disgusted
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 18:00:20

    This country cannot maintain consistency in handling general matters like enforcement or maintaining long term standards, so how to specialize in preventing occupational hazards or taking care of safety measures. Collapsed buildings, cracked bridges, leaking roofs.

    And employers don’t give two hoots as long as their employees slave for them.Back aches, headaches, that’s the employees’ problem, not the bosses.

    Anyway, this wAnderful nation has “chicken shit” policy. It warms for a awhile and after that everything gets icy cold.


  11. Richard Loh
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 18:02:52

    Thanks Dr. Hsu for the quick reply.

    lol..looks like you may have to add some political postings once a while.

    Like what Nick said: What is life in Malaysia if you don’t have politics?


  12. ahoo
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 18:26:06

    Our current sorry state of affair is mainly indebted to politics from the day of independent. Thus, every conceivable objective in writing will indirectly linked to it.

    Take for example the mentioned of a middle man company that supply all those medicines to the govt hospitals. Herein it involved people who are politically connected. Many people can easily guess who are those ” connected ones.” It was once mentioned by Semi Value that without political connection, there is no business to deal in business. And it has always been that way till to date. We may try to avoid politics in things that we say or do BUT this nation had weaved and woven itself so thoroughly that it will be mission impossible to untangle the mess.

    Even when we discuss the topic at hand on occupational safety, we are facing so many areas of compromise from safety regulations to that of enforcement. Many of our employee are taken for granted especially those without union representing them. They worked in environment that are not conducive. Take for example the layman role of a carpet layer.

    The given task may not look too taxing but in reality it is bad for the back and health ! Too much bending and too much of ” glue sniffing ” day in and day out. I was at one time asked to open my office on Sunday in order that the workers can finish the carpet laying work fast. I asked the contractor why as on any public holiday, the wages will be higher. This man said it is alright as his workers need to work everyday at the same rate. That is a case of glue addiction if I understand correctly.

    Likewise, the petrol stations are also another place of health hazard. Those workers are exposed to the fume everyday and that may be addictive as well. Maybe Dr Hsu care to elaborate on these areas of occupational safety/hazard. In all issues there are regulations but because the politicians are the king makers, enforcement are compromise to please their political masters. Same scenario in most govt depts when they are suppose to be non political and serve as civil servants but since they hold the power in decision and enforcement, they would rather act according to their political master’s whim and fancy.

    Dr. you may choose to move into other topics without the link to politics but in Malaysia the reality is that we are unable to divorce ourselves from it. For the curse of politics are everywhere and the only remedy left is for that gangreous limb to be amputated for good, come GE13.


  13. DG
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 20:05:26

    Dr, I am surprise that you let “some die hard fanatics” talk you out of doing what you know is right in the first place.
    This people must be able to get under your skin so much so, you are calling it QUITs ?

    We don’t see KTK quiting after all the insults hurled at him. Why ?


  14. disgusted
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 21:07:40

    ahoo, well said. Nothing in this country can be divorced from politics. It is because everything is somehow link to politics whether we like it or not.

    If a good political system is in place, half the battle is won and you can see the nation “choo-choo” along like a coal-fed old railway engine. At least it will be moving.


  15. Dr Hsu
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 22:07:04


    I am not deterred by their comments but i would not want to waste my precious time fending off illogical attacks. Even before this episode, I have been thinking of going slow on bloggings, (read my comments afew posts ago),since I have put down in black and white more than a 1000 pieces detailing most of my thoughts on most topics, be it education, brain drain, civil serivce, corruption, governance, etcetc.I have also influenced alot of younger and more energetic people talking up bloggings ..

    Perhaps after 3 years, I should be talking of something else, so that I would not have to answer all the illogical attacks aiming at someone trying to effect change instead of aiming at the big fish resisting change..

    Look at the past few posts. I have spent so much of my time just defending myself , the time spent could have been better utilised in ther ways to effect change and influence members to change. To emails to my friends and members for example, convincing them of need of change..

    the most happy people now would of course be the SBs monitoring my writings , and UMNO ultras who would like to read less of my writings. But i am really sick of having to defend myself again and again.. Look under the category Gerakan. How many times I have to defend myself against attacks by purported blog commentators who are actually on payrolls of certain people, these are worse than true monsters… I cannot remember how many times I have to uttered the same thing to fend off attacks, thousands and thousands of words written , which could have been better used in other more productive ways…

    But as I said, I may stop political bloggings, the word ‘may’ means that I may comeback to write later on… depending on circumstances . The future is not for us to see. ANd the future may see me returning to political bloggings once again..

    Support those bloggers writing for change , in the mean time.. Even those who are most vocal to attack me.. I have no hard feelings since we aim for the same thing.. to see a better Malaysia…

    As age is catching up, I also long for some time for myself.. Especially now there are so many good writiers bloggings…


  16. observant
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 22:09:10

    KTK has patience, self control and good strong skin.


  17. Dr Hsu
    Dec 30, 2009 @ 22:19:36

    kTk is a politician. I am not. that is the difference.

    They have positions and power. I do not aspire to have that.. That is the difference.


  18. A true Malaysian
    Dec 31, 2009 @ 00:22:33

    Dr. Hsu,

    Frustrations are all over this Forum and in Malaysia. Just imagine you have written more than 1,000 articles covering all topics and yet we do not see any improvement but things getting from bad to worse, worse to worst. Even prominent UIA professor liken Malaysia as Zimbabwe.

    Undeniable, you have managed to change many Gerakan members’ mindset as proven by the votes you get during the latest Gerakan CC election. But, we as outsiders do not see any indication of improvement in Gerakan, though they may think the same way as yours. So long as Gerakan chooses to remain in BN and under the thumb of Umno, like what we see in Ahmad Ismail episode, the change of mindsets will still not be meaningful, as far as Rakyat is concerned.

    Anyway, it is good for you to take a step backward and slow down in blogging, but I hope not to see you completely out of socio political issue. If not, then you serve no purpose in Gerakan, and go for more fertile ground to continue your mission.

    Your party leaders have lost their respect from Malaysians, Penangites in particular, yet they still harbour hope to recapture Penang from PR. Gerakan is dead as far as I am concerned, in or out of BN. Still, it is better if it is out of BN, at least there are still tiny chance of survival. Put it this way, Huan Cheng Guan is not so silly to leave Gerakan but, he is a opportunist to me, not you.

    You are still you, Dr. Hsu, in or out of Gerakan. In essence, both you and romerz are figthing for the same cause. Put aside frustration, and thing will be fine again.


  19. DG
    Dec 31, 2009 @ 01:32:56

    Dr Hsu, I can’t figure why since you are no politician nor do you have any interest in position, and you are writing with a clear conscience you have to be concern with all these “fanatics”. From the point of argument in itself, you have already won hands down. Any intelligent observer would know who is arguing from a logical angle.
    In addition, you have to practise ” I agree to disagree motto” Not everyone would agree with everything you write including myself. We cannot change people who do not want to change. Everytime you put across your points, you gain a follower, maybe more. That is what that matters. As for the people who refuses to see the light at the end of the tunnel, he loses more followers by the day, everytime they attempt to defend themselves by being unreasonable. The fact you are under siege is a good thing because you are reaching the intended ears. No point writing issues that are agreeable to your supporters only. I guess it’s pretty flattering and less taxing receiving compliments for every article written only and no questions asked.


  20. klm
    Dec 31, 2009 @ 10:00:15

    KTK has patience, self control and good strong skin.
    That is too kind for him. He has the skin of a mule and the brain of the mule.


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