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Curbing commuting accidents

POSTED BY ON 21 April 2015


LOOKING at the overall commuting accidents on our roads, it has been observed that while industrial accidents are generally on the decline, the number of commuting accidents involving employees has increased 35 per cent in the past six years, from 20,810 accidents with 1,231 deaths in 2009 to 28,050 with 933 deaths in 2014 as reported by the Social Security Organisation (Socso).

While safety risks and resulting work accidents are diminishing, work related commuting accidents are on the rise.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) stated that 2.2 million work-related deaths occurred every year in which 350,000 deaths were from accidents at work, 1.7 million due to occupational diseases and 158,000 due to commuting accidents.

A major occupational safety and health issue in Malaysia is the one related to commuting accidents on our roads involving employees who commute from their home to their place of work and vice-versa.

The number of road fatalities in Malaysia is alarming. There are more than 6,000 fatalities every year for the last few years and that translates into 18 to 20 people killed every day. Motorcyclists and pillion riders make up about 60 per cent of the fatalities and most of them are young and in the prime of their lives.

In Malaysia, according to Socso, there were three work-related deaths every day in 2011. Two out of the three deaths were due to commuting accidents, indicating a serious situation in the country.

The impact of commuting accidents is far greater than industrial accidents as commuting accidents normally involve multiple injuries, and the injuries sustained during these accidents are far more worse and traumatising when compared with workplace accidents.

The problems related to the rising number of commuting accidents are lack of awareness among the workers for safe riding and driving while commuting to work, lack of comprehensive training programmes targeted at commuting accidents, lack of commuting safety management or lack of road safety elements in the occupational, safety and health management system at workplaces.

Based on Socso’s statistics, accidents happen on the way to work in the morning. It may happen because workers rush to work. Based on the statistics, other underlying factors are speeding, reckless driving, texting and lack of focus.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is actively involved in encouraging employers to commit their employees in its Safe Motorcycle Defensive Riding Training Programme. It is working on improving the training module for future safe motorcycle riding and defensive driving courses.

Employers have a moral obligation to adopt a proactive approach to managing occupational road risk as well as to implementing the Industrial Code of Practice (ICOP) on safety, health and the environment.

Employers can do much to change the driving attitude and behaviour of their employees. The employers can help devise safe journeys, using safe vehicles and providing driver training to prevent road accidents.

Employers also have a duty to protect their employees and other road users by adopting the approach of managing road risk in order to control the very significant business losses which arise from “at work” road accidents, including not only direct accident costs, but lost staff time, higher insurance premiums and poor public image.

Companies which take action to promote the safety of their staff while driving will achieve major cost savings, improve their image and make a significant contribution to meeting road safety targets.

Employers and employees have to collaborate and be committed to build a Culture of Commuting Accident Prevention to help reduce commuting accidents on our roads.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health