Major workplace disasters

With figures indicating that over 2.3 million die every year due to work related accidents or diseases, it is clear that more information and education is required on the subject.

The impact of workplace accidents also has a detrimental effect on the global economy. It is estimated that there are 313 million non-fatal workplace accidents each year, which results in a loss of 4% of the world’s annual GDP.

Safety in the workplace is the responsibility of both the employer and the employee. The employer must ensure that all risks and hazards are identified and assessed. Control measures must be introduced as a solution to risks and hazards that cannot be alleviated. It is the employee’s responsibility to comply and cooperate with relevant safety laws and with the employer.

We have sought to convey the dangers of failing to implement correct safety standards and precautions at work. We have illustrated the implications for employees, employers, and also the dangers for those in surrounding areas.

Chernobyl, Soviet Union (Ukraine)

On 26th April 1986 a sudden surge of power during a reactor systems test in Unit 4 of the plant led to a series of steam explosions. The resulting fires sent a plume of highly radioactive material into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. A ‘level 7’ classified event, this was the largest nuclear disaster in history in terms of cost and lives lost. An area of 30km radius was closed off, and the health of clean-up and recovery workers has been continually monitored.

Although there are conflicting explanations of the causes of the disaster, an inadequate culture of safety at operating level and in operating instructions was a contributing factor. Design deficiencies were also found.

Concord air crash, France

Departing from Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris for New York on 25th July 2000, Air France Flight 4590 crashed into a hotel in Gonesse after failing to take off due to engine failure. 109 passengers and crew were on board at the time. A piece of metal on the runway from a Continental Airlines take-off 15 minutes prior caused a series of events, resulting in failure of both engines and a fire to one. The aircraft was found to be overloaded by 810kg, and an investigation pointed to a safety inspection not being carried out on the runway before take-off. Continental Airlines were found to be liable for compensation claims.

Rana Plaza, Savar, Bangladesh

A building constructed for commercial use was being used for industrial purposes. On 23rd April 2013, major cracks began to appear on the building. This lead to the immediate closure of commercial units on the ground floor. However, Sohel Rama gave a media briefing to announce that the building was safe and that workers should return in the morning. Managers at Ether Tex threatened to withhold a month’s pay of workers who refused to return. The factories manufactured apparel for brands including Primark, Walmart, Benetton and Monsoon. Then, on the morning of 24th April the building collapsed with over 3,000 employees inside. The various causes of the collapse were: the addition of three floors which were not permitted, use of sub-standard construction materials, and conversion from commercial to industrial use.

We hope that this article will raise awareness of the importance of high standards of health and safety at work.

Article courtesy of North Sea Workwear.