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Global & Local Issues & Trends - China & UK

China’s rapid expansion results in human cost

In 2015, 66,000 people died at work according to a report released in December 2016 by the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese legislature. There is a common theme for Health & Safety in China: rapid economic expansion that has come at a human cost. Its regulatory system seems to struggle to keep pace with the rate of change, where it faces high inequality and issues with environmental sustainability. 

Specifically, in Hong Kong, official figures showed that approximately 500 people have been killed transforming it into a modern city since 1989 with only one person being incarcerated. Construction and maintenance workers claim that Hong Kong employers cut corners on safety, hide workplace injuries to avoid accident compensation and reputational damage. Contractors tell staff not to call 999  because reports of even minor injuries will affect their future bids for government projects claimed Vice Chairman of Construction Site Workers General Union. The Chief Executive of Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victim claims that many businesses redesignate their workers as self-employed personnel when injuries occur. 

He goes on to say ‘employers try to shirk responsibility. They use financial inducements to coax workers into accepting the arrangement. Workers are satisfied as long as they can continue working. But after a while, the evidence for pursuing compensation (over lax safety standards) is lost and the case is dropped.’

Regulators are facing calls to adopt a new approach to safety. The China Labour Bulletin, an organisation based in Hong Kong that seeks to improve working conditions on the mainland, is calling on the government and policymakers to stop “fixating” on major accidents, and start thinking about ways to improve day-to-day safety in all of China’s workplaces. 

United Kingdom sees rise in Acid Attacks

The number of crimes using acid or other noxious substances has more than doubled in London over the last three years. There have also been notable increases in other parts of England. In London the number of incidents rose from 186 between April 2014 and March 2015 to 397 in the same period in 2016-2017 according to official figures from Metropolitan Police. Only last weekend six people were injured in an acid attack at Stratford Centre, London.  One of the main reasons behind an increase is the clamp down on weapons and accessibility of noxious substances. Businesses can prevent and respond by collaborating or partnering with safety, risk and compliance organisations who can assist in strategy and building of preventative and response programmes. 

Prevention and Response for businesses 

Organisations need to build in programmes to prevent and respond to these incidents. Programmes should be interdisciplinary  and follow the characteristics of Human Security domains:

  • People-centred
  • Multi-sectoral 
  • Comprehensive
  • Context-specific
  • Prevention-orientated

Human Security derives much of its strength from two mutually reinforcing pillars of protection and empowerment. Organisations need to take on a hybrid approach which:

  • Combines top down norms, processes and institutions including the establishment of good governance, accountability and social protective instruments
  • Helps identify gaps in the existing security infrastructure and detects ways to mitigated the impact of existing security deficits
  • Reinforces peoples’ ability to act on their own behalf.
  • Allows for knowledge sharing and results orientated learning
  • Emphasis on early prevention rather than late intervention, thereby more cost effect
  • Strategies concerned with the development of mechanism for prevention, the mitigation of harmful effects when downturns occur, and ultimately helping victims to cope.

Ark Workplace Risk can assess existing organisation arrangements and policies as well as benchmark for impact evaluation.

Our solutions are prevention-orientated:

  • Identify the root causes, primary protection and empowerment gaps to develop sustainable solutions
  • Emphasise prevention as well as response when developing priorities 
  • Focus on empowerment measures that build on local capacities and resilience. 

Click here to read News Spotlight October 2017

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