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Safety culture


cardie roque that's the spirit

THE earthquakes in or country last week, particularly the one that hit Central Luzon, bring to light both improvements in and weaknesses of the safety culture in our country.

Given the vulnerability of our country to many kinds of disasters, we, as a people, with the leadership of our government, need to seriously look into the quality of our safety culture and make the necessary reforms that our “way of life” in our country is characterized by the premium we give to the protection of Filipinos against both natural and man-made disasters.

For one, there is obviously better consciousness now on what to do during disasters, like an earthquake. There were no reports of panic incidents and the system that calls for the accounting of people as well as the inspection of building before people are allowed to go back in appears to effective. We also have better system, including facilities, for evacuation of disaster victims.

However, reforms are definitely needed on the prevention dimension of our safety culture.

In general, whether we speak of natural disasters such as earthquake, typhoon and even volcanic eruption, or man-made disasters such as floods, fire, and vehicular accidents, our “ways” are at best weak in the context of preventing probable harm to human life and damages to properties.

One main weakness in our safety culture is the poor implementation of laws and regulations that were specifically crafted to ensure the safety of people and properties.

We can see this weakness in many aspects of our national life. The Building Code is hardly implemented particularly outside the major cities in our country. Even when building permits are secured, some permits and building officials in local governments do not strictly enforce the provisions of the Code in exchange for bribes.

Our streets, both in urban centers and rural areas, are perfect illustrations of how weak safety laws and regulations are implemented in our country. Jaywalking, for example, is almost a non-concern for law enforcers except when concerned agencies have a “drive” against it. It has been “acceptable” for law enforcers to have sidewalks and road shoulders to have obstructions like vendors and parked vehicles even if they pose obvious dangers to pedestrians who are forced to walk on the streets.

The country’s Fire Code appears to be adhered to only for newly constructed buildings. Even in securing fire clearance, there have been numerous cases of irregularities that all point to the very weak implementation of this particularly law that is clearly intended to protect lives and properties.

(To be continued)