“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.’
Government OHS policies are, more often than not, based on statistics. The most common statistic is workers’ compensation claims as they are trackable and involve money. Another is fatality data.
Many countries have an obligation on employers to notify the proper authorities if a serious injury has occurred. We know that in some countries injuries and deaths are under-reported. In the legal, and illegal, coal mines in China, sometimes workplace deaths are actively disguised, ignored or denied.
Just this week, a Vietnam news service reported on the lack of injury reporting identified by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ Labour Safety Department, in Vietnam.
The report says that “only 7,000 companies reported work-related accidents” for 2008 and that this equates to only 10 per cent of the reportable accidents. Using the mathematical calculation skills of SafetyAtWorkBlog (an Arts graduate) that means that over 60,000 workplace injuries are not being reported.
Earlier this year a more explanatory article appeared which estimated 500 deaths each year form workplace incidents.
Perhaps there is some hope that if the government is aware of the lack of reporting, it can accommodate this in its national programme on labour protection, safety and hygiene that aims for a reduction of at least 5% in work incidents by 2010.