Walking my dog along the Mekong in Vientiane, new piles of building rubble litter the river bank. The capital has long had a problem with plastic waste, but as unbridled wealth spreads and humble buildings are replaced by garish McMansions, building rubble is turning up in the general detritus. Among the bricks was what looked like the residue of shattered Asbestos Cement sheets; but without necessary skill and a microscope how could anyone tell?
A Vietnamese trader arrives. He rifles through the remains, takes a few of the bigger bits, tosses them in the trailer behind his bike and leaves with a nod. Later, in the main street outside a hardware shop, a large box of mixed waste lies waiting for collection. Laos do not separate their waste at source and while there may be provisions for hazardous waste, procedures are not observed. Out of date drugs, toxic chemicals, poohy nappies are tossed into or along the river; are burned or go into general land fill sites. Or are scavenged.
“It was nine at night and the shooters had the advantage of superior fire power and night vision goggles …. We stood no chance. Two friends were killed…”
David Paklett, a Wildlife Ranger working in Tanzania pulled up his trouser leg and showed me an ugly red scar that looked a bit like an alien pasted to his skin. It was 2013. We were in Spain’s ancient university town of Salamanca, at WILD 10, a sporadic gathering of wilderness and conservation specialists. He told me how the year before, he and his colleagues had been in a John Woo style shoot out with Vietnamese poachers. The Vietnamese were overhead in a helicopter, firing at them with automatic rifles. ‘It was nine at night and the shooters had the advantage of superior fire power and night vision goggles.’
His words have stayed with me.
‘We stood no chance. Two friends were killed, and I got this.’ When I looked up, his eyes had the look of someone who was looking back with horror. ‘Did you ever talk about that night with anyone?’ I asked sipping a Rioja red. ‘Who is there to tell?’ David grimaced. ‘It’s part of the job. The game has changed. The Chinese are arming these guys and making sure they get away with the kill. The forces behind them are so powerful and we have no resources.’
It has been noted that the recent World Congress on Safety And Health at Work had “Vision Zero” as one of its three themes. It was curious that the opening remarks of Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong (pictured right), did not mention Vision Zero at all. In fact he was quite measured in his speech which placed him in a better position to argue for real safety targets and initiatives.
In contrast to many business leaders, and some of the speakers at the World Congress, the Prime Minister stated that
“workplace accidents and injuries are almost always preventable.”
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There is some thematic similarity to WorkSafe Victoria’s Homecoming campaign, specifically to the child wait for the Father to return from work and the mother on the phone, but there are different emotional touchpoints.
A major part of the emotional impact comes from the ad not dealing with a workplace fatality. The reaction from the Father in the hospital bed is powerful.