Workers face a myriad of problems in Lebanon. Over the past few years, different labor groups in the country have protested over a variety of issues, one of which did not receive much attention from the unions, media and policy makers: occupational health and safety. Two weeks ago, a 25-year old mechanic was killed in Sidon, when the car he was inspecting fell on him due to a faulty lift. Fellow mechanics in Sidon complained that not enough is being done to protect them. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident; in the past four years a construction worker falls after falling off a crane, two workers were killed within three days in one site, a worker was killed on a construction site, and one worker killed and three injure when a fall collapsed over them.
It is common to see workers in construction sites and at car mechanics wearing no or little safety gear. Lack of a safe working environment is also present in factories as well as non-industrial jobs. Some domestic workers also risk their lives on a daily basis. Pictures of domestic workers cleaning windows in high buildings with no protective gear in Lebanon can be found all over the internet (like the one below).
Not providing and maintaining safe and healthy working environment is illegal in Lebanon. Decree No. 11802 covers occupational prevention, safety and health. The decree contains many rules that employers have to abide to in order to protect their employees and requires the employers to buy insurance for their employees. Article 24 states: “The employer shall provide the workers with the appropriate personal prevention and protection uniforms and gears, ensure their maintenance and preserve them in good conditions for later use, without the workers being liable to pay any costs.” As with other similar legislation, enforcement of this decree is lax.
A recent study on 15 Lebanese contracting companies shed light on Safety and Health Management by investigating their safety practices. The study found that 47% of the surveyed companies do not adopt any form of a safety and health management plan. The majority (71%) of these companies did not implement a safety plan because they believe is not required by law.
Lack of comprehensive legislation and implementation has become a common theme for many issues in Lebanon. This blog has written about many problems that cannot be stopped because of the lack of a legal compliance mechanism. Proper and relevant legislation and enforcement is the only way to improve occupational health and safety; just like the food scandal, hunting and pollution.