BY RUTH ABRAHAM
A conference was held on industrial safety on 22nd February, 2020, at the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW). It was organized by the Eritrean Association of Chemical Engineering in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), safety management at Bisha Mining Share Company (BMSC), safety management in Total Oil and the Eritrean Crop and Livestock Cold Store Quality Control.
The Eritrean Association of Chemical Engineering (EAChE) is a professional nonprofit organization that aims to bring together chemical engineers and chemical technologists to create a network and encourage collaboration in research projects and help in the development of the field.
The idea of forming the association was originally presented by the 2012 graduates of chemical engineers from the Eritrean Institute of Technology College. Currently, EAChE is believed to have made modest progress in publicizing and setting a solid foundation for the association by conducting two conferences so far, linking to industries and conducting monthly educational programs where members share their experiences in their respective field of work.
The main focus of the conference held on 22nd February was the safety measures that should and are being taken during the occurrence of chemical accidents in industries. ‘Industrial safety’ relates to the management of all operations and events within an industry in order to protect employees and assets by minimizing hazards, risks, accidents and failures.
Three types of industrial safety measures were presented at the conference where the system automatically prevents the hazardous situation or the people involved take their own lines of caution. In addition to the measures taken by the system, there is also Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where the company provides gloves, helmets, eye protection materials such as glasses, goggles, hearing protection, foot protection and also respiratory protection materials such as face masks and cartridge filters.
The ILO estimates that some 2.3 million women and men around the world experience work-related accidents or diseases every year; this corresponds to over 6,000 deaths every single day. Worldwide, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.
As the chairman of EAChE, Mr. Abraham Yohannes, said in his opening speech, the issue of industrial safety is not only limited to industrially developed countries but also applies to countries at their infant stage of industrialization. In fact, the issue should be addressed at early stage in order to avoid human loss and injury as well as damage to the companies and the environment.
The issue of industrial safety dates back to the 4th Century BC when scientists of that time recognized the lead toxicity and many industrial hazards were recognized and guilds began assisting sick workers and their families. But, it was in the 20th century that the implementation of industrial hygiene, safety, occupational health, and hazard communication programs began to be taken seriously. Soon after the occupational safety and health administration and their regulations started to get recognition.
One of the worst chemical accidents in the world is believed to be the 1984 Bhopal accident, where a poisonous gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. It took many lives and left many others devastated. According to the presenters at the conference, safety is given utmost priority in organizations.
As part of the industrial safety issue, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) was discussed in the conference, referring to the legislative side of the issue. Accordingly, the Eritrean Labor Proclamation number 118/2001 addresses the issue of OSH and industrial safety, containing XIII titles and 162 articles. It is a comprehensive legal instrument that deals with contract of employees, working conditions of young employees and adults and other laws related with the handling of chemicals and pesticides.
Mr. Mengis Fitwi, a chemical engineering manager at Total, said that 85% of an organization’s loss can be controlled by its management system alone. The representative of BMSC, Mr. Yacob Keleta also outlined that maintaining a safe work place for everyone involved is the duty of the employers as well as the employees. The employer should make sure the working environment is safe, cooperate with the employees, and provide information and training to ensure the employees’ safety, make the employees aware of the possible hazard and also provide PPE.
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Mr. Yacob added that the employees should follow safety and health instructions, report possible hazards and use the PPE well. After all, careless employees can degrade all of the organization’s efforts and put their coworkers and themselves at risk. This is a big answer to the big question, who is in charge of safety?
Everyone is, I am, you are and we all are in charge of our own safety. That way, the safety of the environment and the people as well as the organizations is safeguarded.
Mr. Thomas Habte, secretary of EAChE, said recognizing possible industrial threats and implementing proper prevention methods should be the ultimate goal of everyone involved.