On Saturday, 18 Feb 2012, a worker from China got folded into a dough-mixing machine as it began churning. He was crushed and killed.
The dead man’s girlfriend, Ms Feng Weijia, told Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao, that they were going to get married next year. Apparently, her boyfriend had said that he had a good boss but that he was working overtime – about 12 to 16 hours at a time – almost daily.
Investigations are undergoing.
I couldn’t turn the page when I read this news report. Various thoughts emerged:
– Let’s say it was true that he was working 12-16 hours frequently. Could working shorter hours have meant he is alive today? Could he have been alert enough to withdraw his foot fast enough? Or been more mindful of his safety? Or remember any safety instructions he had been given? Was he too tired? Maybe.
– How about his employers? Do they work long hours too that affects their own wellbeing adversely? Is that why this practice is probably trickling down and affecting their workers? If they knew in their hearts that compassion is a big part of being joyful, could this death have been prevented?
What if we know his employers, or other employers or realise that we are “employers” ourselves? We belong to clubs, associations, alumni groups, schools, places of worship and of course our own places of employment. We know others from there. These places have staff, both permanent and contract workers. If we have influence in these settings, we could use that to enable these employees to be safer and happier. What conversations could we start to enable this? How would we invite family members, friends and others in our affiliated groups to run their businesses more consciously and compassionately? How could we support them to be compassionate to themselves, as well as those they work with?
Remuneration, working hours, workplace safety, medical support when injured, accommodation, food, transport, and potential for growth – these are some key areas we could pay attention to. I don’t currently have a precise list of questions we could pose to contractors etc. For now, let’s try common sense and what we would want for someone we love dearly.
How could we create systems of transparency and accountability where we really get to know what’s going on the ground for contract workers especially? What could we witness and check first-hand?
– There’s alot of talk on Corporate Social Responsibility these days. My thinking is that the best CSR starts with one’s own employees. No need to go far to find suffering to alleviate or to bring joy to others.
If you agree, and have opportunities, could you help shape the CSR discourse to integrate more of such a view?
Yes, some changes require more money. Are we willing to pay more to enable these employees to have a better life? What would it feel like to vote for compassion with our money? How about using some of the money we want to give away in the name of CSR to actually making changes in our own companies/organisations that can help protect more lives, and help employees be happier?
– How could we do as much as our compassion and wisdom guide us to, and not only follow legislation? Fo example, it’s legal to transport workers in goods vehicles. But if we really cared about their safety, we could transport them in passenger vehicles.
This week, another worker, Mr Ibrahim, 22, was killed when the lorry in which he was being transported in met with an accident. Others were injured.
But those are the few that we get to know of. I know there’s probably more employees who got injured this week. Maybe more died.
I now have a start-up that helps businesses help their employees to be happier. It’s my own small way of helping to change things. What could yours be? Where’s your sphere of influence? How could you use it peacefully and constructively?
Every small bit helps. Let’s not let this man’s tragic death be in vain.
For a start, could you bring/raise the ideas in this post to any upcoming meeting and start a dialogue around it? Or simply forward this to someone with a note on what could be done in the organisation you’re from?
(PS: I also try to heal my own blindspots, inconsistencies, short-sightedness as I believe that societal transformation starts with personal transformation. If not, I may be the unwitting cause of someone writing a blog somewhere about my actions, and how s/he needs to try and change mine!)