INDIA: Health + Safety

A month back there was a horrible accident at work. It happened just as I was arriving to the campus in the morning. In our building we have seven floors, one of which we accommodate. The building has a set of cleaning staff who are very poor, come from villages outside of Bangalore and don’t speak much English if any. I try to speak to them in my few words of Kanada and Hindi and they smile but probably find it highly entertaining. 

On this morning, one of the men was down in the foyer cleaning the glass walls around the lifts well. The power room for the lifts is located on the seventh floor at the back of the building. Someone went to turn them on but there is no way of knowing if someone is in the lift well. When the power was turned on, the lift came down to the ground floor and crushed the man. 

For days later everyone was in shock and no one wanted to use that lift. We held a memorial service on our floor beside the lift and a two minute silence. A collection was also made for the family of the man and sent to them in their village. This was a tragic accident which should not have happened and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and colleagues.

Health and Safety is a topic which often, in the UK, we feel is overly stressed and we cover our back for everything.  It is just not like that here.  Value for life is different, people don't think these design issues through and often safety just costs too much.  Tragic accidents will keep happening unless designers and workers are properly trained and educated.  I can teach Health and Safety in design and how to design potential accidents out of buildings but I have to wonder if it will ever really make a difference.