Can Social Media help save lives?

The power of social media is immense. The right campaign can take if in a matter of days and go ‘viral’ with just a few twitter tweets and Facebook shares from the right people. We have seen it with the petition against the killer of Cecil the Lion and we have seen it in advertisement for the John Lewis penguin last year at Christmas. Social Media’s power has often been infamous in the form of bullying, harassment and fraud but companies like and Kick-starter have found ways of using it for good.

Accidents happen all over the world and if the accident happens to a minority or or a person not considered important then people, wrongly, do not seem to care. Sometimes it takes the death of thousands of people in poverty for heads to even turn. However, if the ‘right’ person dies, or more importantly if a picture of the ‘right’ person is shared it can cause shockwaves around the world. An example would be the tragic drowning of the toddler refugee. Government works by trying to please the people who vote for them so if the people are outraged so are the government and therefore help will be on its way. Sadly, if the voters don’t know yet the government do then they will take no action because there is no benefit to their electoral campaign.

The power of social media is helping save lives around the world. In Myanmar there was a construction accident that killed two and injured 18. Normally, an accident such as that would be swept under the carpet and ignored. Not this time. Images of the accident went viral. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands saw the consequence of out-dated regulations and OSHA was forced to react. The latest parliamentary document for help and safety is from 1951. Engineers in Myanmar have been trying to update them and add a new “Health and Safety in the Workplace” law from as recent as 2012 however it has not made its way through the parliamentary process.

Change is being pushed forward as a result of the outrage of the ‘Tweeters’ and ‘Facebookers’. Companies hadn’t been pushing for safety regulations as it would affect their bottom line. When social media caught wind of this – there isn’t anything that social media hates more than a big company taking advantage of a little person – the wheels of change were put in motion. Petitions, letters and other forms of protest were made and maybe now the future for workers in Myanmar may not be so bleak.

The people who can make the biggest difference in saving lives across the world are those at home who like and retweet at will. If social media is used enough then real change can happen and lives can be saved. The effects of the social media cohort are clear. The Myanmar Engineering Society recently announced plans to form a safety group that records any accidents that occur so that a book of statistics can be formed to provide OSHA with specific areas that companies are failing in regards to safety.

Developers aren’t evil they don’t want to see loss of life but they have shown reluctance to incur the costs of improving their health and safety record by using safer practice. Employees are often compensated after accidents but it is usually by paying the out of pocket workers as the accidents occur. It seems simple that reducing the accidents reduces the out of pocket payments in the long run but companies seem hesitant to make the initial investments that could save them money in the long run. This might be because companies are unable to undertake cost optimization projects with regards to health and safety cost compared to the cost incurred when providing a safer workplace. This is because if a report found that lives could be saved but at a greater cost than paying compensation then the companies would be put in a position where they have to make the ethical and legal decision to increase safety despite the loss in profit. Companies simply don’t want to be put into this position. They also don’t want the press to hear that they have had a report commissioned to fnd out whether saving lives and preventing accidents might be better or worse for their bottom line than paying out after accidents. The damage caused to their company in terms of negative press would be too great for them to risk taking such action.

Social media can be the saviour of the ‘little’ people as the outrage that is shown the more governments will want to show that they are combatting the ‘big’ companies that are committing the atrocities. Retweeting and sharing doesn’t cost you much in street cred but it could help save lives so next time you see an article or post outlining the danger of someone far far away then why not click it? You might up help saving numerous lives.

by Sam Prusek
Editor of The Industry Post
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