Have you ever been to an awards ceremony or conference where plaudits have been given to companies for their sustainability achievements? Have you ever noticed that those companies winning projects have sometimes not considered people, or that some might have been hurt or worse as part of those projects? We have, and it always makes us think.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is something that impacts us on a local and global scale, but what exactly does it mean? The Oxford English Dictionary defines sustainability as:
“The avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
We can understand why this leads people to think sustainability is all about environmental and ecological factors, but one of the biggest natural resources is often forgotten about; people.
Hundred Acre’s founder and director, Bridget Gilmour, shares her frustration. “Companies and organisation across the globe seem to forget we, as people, are an essential resource. I’m not comfortable hearing of businesses that win awards for sustainable projects when employees have died as a direct result of the work. There’s something not quite right with it and that shouldn’t be acceptable.”
Remembering the Dead
Over the last month, there have been a few anniversaries of major occupational safety disasters that have occurred over time. Here at Hundred Acre we remember those who tragically lost their lives as we consider the relationship between sustainability and employees.
Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, New York – 25th March 1911
The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire was the deadliest industrial disaster in New York’s history. 146 people died as the fire took hold of the building, because doors were locked to prevent theft. The incident was a watershed moment in America, and led to significant changes in occupational safety and health laws to prevent similar disasters.
Factory Fire, Pakistan – 11th September 2012
Heartbreakingly, over a century after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a similar incident took place in Pakistan. This fire killed nearly 300 workers, reportedly because the doors were locked and the windows were barred.
Rana Plaza Building Collapse, Bangladesh – 24th April 2013
While the two disasters mentioned above were catastrophic, nothing compares to the worst ever industrial incident where garment workers were crushed and maimed as the Rana Plaza building collapsed. 1129 workers died and a further 2500 were injured. This disaster led to some significant changes in the garment industry and procurement processes. This year again, this anniversary has not gone unnoticed by IOSH.
Fight for the Living
While we remember those who tragically lost their lives in all occupational safety and health incidents, we continue to fight for the living. No day is this more significant than today, International Workers’ Memorial Day, to take a few moments to reflect and to then think of taking action. Companies must put plans and procedures in place to stop these horrific events. We all deserve the right to go home in the same physical and mental state as we arrived to work in.
If you’d like to read more about OSH and sustainability, the CSHS (Center for Safety and Health Sustainability) is a great resource. We’d also recommend looking at a recent presentation from the former chair of CSHS and current president of ASSE, Tom Cecich, who asks if corporations are sustainable, why are so many workers dying?
We hope this has given you some food for thought and encouraged you to think of your people when you think of sustainability. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help your company avoid tragic incidents, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can contact us via our website or call us on +44 (0) 1933 201103. We are always happy to help.
Hundred Acre – Everyone’s Safe Place