• Saturday, November 01, 2014

SAFETY SECOND?

By Mehereen Aziz

The five basic human needs are a list of essential factors that together build the foundation of a society. The list consists of exactly what the name suggests: extremely “basic” items that are the right of every human being, which need to be present before any real development can take place.

Photo: Abir Abdullah
Photo: Abir Abdullah

Among them, “safety” is one such need; and there is a clear lack, as well as a lack of effort, of any kind of safety in Bangladesh. While safety from crime is something that has deteriorated to a point far beyond our control, we are focusing on other aspects of safety; what about the controllable safety measures within our reach that we can adopt in our everyday lives?
The biggest challenge is the complete lack of awareness of safety in our society. At first we need to embrace the fact that safety is a human right, and we cannot deny ourselves or other citizens their safety. Our cities are so densely populated that an accident next door could harm us as well. For this reason, maintaining safety first is everyone's responsibility.
Safety at home

Photo: Abir Abdullah
Photo: Abir Abdullah

The practice of safety begins from the home, but does everyone really know of the dangers in the household? Breaking a few habits can reduce many risks. The first habit is how we deal with fire. Sometimes we literally pretend it does not exist; if you do a lot of cooking, you probably cannot count how many times you've left the fire burning at the stove. Since smoke alarms do not exist in Bangladeshi households, there is no way to know if something is wrong in your unattended kitchen until it's too late.
Our beautiful saris and the elaborate long kameezes that are in vogue with the bell bottom sleeves and the chiffon scarves are the worst outfits to wear when you are cooking; they catch fire very easily. Another bad habit to break is hanging clothes in the kitchen to dry with the stove on when it's raining outside. You are just one light breeze away from a piece of clothing dropping on the open fire and causing a crisis.
A concept that is still alien to us is that of “child-proofing” the house. In many countries, when a child is born in a household, especially when she reaches her toddler years, parents install a lot of contraptions to ensure the safety of the toddler. For example, a childproof gate on top of the stairs so that she won't fall; or locks on cupboards and drawers that she could possibly reach, like those under kitchen counters.
What do we do when there's a toddler in the household? We hire a maid and dump all the responsibility on her shoulders. Don't be passive about your child's safety; stay proactive and install safety measures in the house.
And in case something does happen, do you know how to treat a burn? If you drop hot water or a cup of tea on your lap and your pants get stuck to your skin, what do you do? How is a first degree burn different from a third degree burn, and how do you immediately treat it? Ask these questions, because you never know when you might need to know the answer.
 

Photo: Abir Abdullah
Photo: Abir Abdullah

Workplace safety
Your workplace is where you spend most of your waking hours every day and unlike your home, your office, especially if you consider the building as a whole, might have a large group of people.
The safe handling of electronics is the first priority at work. When you leave your office, turn off all the power switches on your computer. This also applies to the home as well.
In a country with frequent power outage, we tend to forget that when it comes back on, there is a surge of power rushing through the wires that might fluctuate and burst, causing a fire if the fuse isn't working. Unattended, this kind of incident could have staggering effects, especially in offices because no one will be present to handle it after a certain time of the day.
There are extensive occupational health and safety standards manuals and even longer training programmes provided to staff in many countries. If your workplace is one where there is a lot of manual labour, you should be aware that there is a proper way to lift heavy objects without straining your back. There are also some stretches that can be done by employees who work at their computers all day. Research these basic standards and put up the diagrams that depict the simple postures in the tea corner at work; this simple gesture can significantly reduce a lot of irreversible back injuries.
Observe your office building to see if fire exits are clearly marked, and most importantly, usable and not locked from the outside. Are there fire extinguishers on every floor, and do you know how to use them? Are there regular fire drills?
 

Photo: Abir Abdullah
Photo: Abir Abdullah

Safety is everyone's responsibility
Pointing fingers is easy, but ensuring safety for all can never start with just one person. You've got a role to play as much as anyone else. Is your family aware of all the basic safety issues in the household? Does your workplace have a fire safety strategy enforced? If you are a teacher, you need to start a special class in your school that teaches your students about safety and how to treat burns and injuries. If you play a management role at your office, it's time to do a random fire drill. If you're a concerned family member, you need to let the rest of your family, including the helping hands, know about all the things that could go wrong so they are extra careful.
And finally, if you believe yourself to be a concerned citizen, you will take some time out of your busy Facebook stalking schedule to look up all the issues mentioned above on the Internet. Let's stop making safety second, third, fourth, and sometimes even the last, thing on our mind.
 

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Last modified: 1:48 pm Sunday, April 20, 2014

TAGS: safety workplace safety Safety at home

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