Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rain or shine

All of a sudden, some locals are now concerned about the safety (and comfort?) that employers employ in ferrying their foreign workers to and from work. Right now, many of these foreign workers sit at the opened back of their employers' station wagons. Some of these station wagons, or lorries or trucks (whichever word you use depends on where you come from) are not covered, so workers hold on to whatever they can to steady themselves while the lorry moves. Some lorries have roof shelters, so when it rains, they are protected. Some have additional fencing so workers can sit on raised wooden planks installed across or along the sides of these lorries, probably making the ride more comfortable.

Responding to safety concerns, some people are suggesting a gamut of things - not about making the lorries safer, but suggesting that employers abandon the use of their lorries in favour of using buses and the like for ferrying their workers. One has even accused Singapore of being worse than what some 3rd World countries practise. For example, someone pointed out that China has laws that disallow the use of lorries for this purpose. Well I am not sure if that law exists in the first place, and even if it does, whether it exists nation-wide. Just becaues a local says so to make a point does not mean it is so.

I think in their fervour to make it safer for our foreign workers,we are forgetting one important thing. And that is to keep costs low for our business owners. Otherwise, these same businesses will lose out to our regional neighbours resulting in the retrenchment of these foreign workers. Then these best safety practices will be moot. It will be a supreme irony - that 'better' laws or rules that are meant to protect our foreign workers' safety will result in their being sent home prematurely. Sure we can have First World best practices. This also means we will have First World costs.

I have ridden behind open-top lorries and station wagons before. While it can be thrilling, I recognise the danger that it poses. But I also think that if passengers practice sensible care, this mode of transport can be quite comfortable and safe. Of course when it rains, it can get uncomfortable, but it is nothing that a tarpaulin cannot fix. Even with a roof, water can splash in, and you'd just have to wear a water-proof overalls for cover. Sure this isn't as comfortable and ideal as a bus, but if it is going to kill the foreign workers' job, which would they prefer? Before we pontificate on what our employers should do, shouldn't was ask them - the foreign workers, what they want?


Anonymous said...

While there are certainly risks involved in sitting at the back of lorries,trying to build a cage (fence) along the sides of these lorries will not resolve some of the safety issues.

I believe that some reckless lorry drivers are the culprits of deadly accidents. How many times do drivers encounter lorries that stopped abruptly in order to allow the foreign workers to get off?

My own encounter was with a lorry (the driver was a foreign worker) who tried to serve into my lane from my left blind spot. This happened just a short distance away from a right turn junction.

As for the tarpaulin cover which will translate into higher costs, it is not essential. Simple reason being that the foreign workers can tolerate most rain or shine than most of us do.

Anonymous said...

some people who ride motorbikes love to do so without helmets, after all it's refreshing to feel the wind in your hair, no? why not we ask them if they prefer helmets instead of enforcing the rule.

Lam Chun See said...

Enacting laws is good but at the same time should check the speeding problem. It's such a common sight to see lorries with foreign workers speeding along our highways. Same is true for the school buses.

Joseph said...

Since it's so wonderful how about we send our school children on these instead of buses?

I am sure it would be much cheaper and save a lot of money and prevent children from dropping out from school.

Safety is safety and all human beings are the same. And when we start understanding that we start of become more human ourselves.