Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Safety in India

What you've heard about the cows in India is true.  I've seen traffic on a major highway come to a standstill in the heart of Mumbai while a herd of cattle crosses, and I've seen thousands of cars, motorcycles and pedestrians stop to wait for a dog to pinch a loaf in the middle of one of the busiest intersections I've ever seen.  These animals don't have a care in the world, and wouldn't last a week in the states.  But, I truly expected the Indian culture to have a greater respect for human life as well.

Everyday I see cars pass at full speed within inches of pedestrians (they will lay on the horn while doing so - but I'm not sure that's a plus).  Meanwhile, tires will squeal as vehicles brake for a lamb frolicking on the highway.

There has been a lot of reporting in the newspaper about the recent Commonwealth games (CWG).  I don't know how much attention it received in the states, but there were significant issues with construction quality (a newly built pedestrian bridge collapsed within weeks of its opening), corruption (they have no idea where the money went, but a significant percentage was obviously lost due to graft), and hygiene (many countries threatened not to send their athletes, and many individual athletes elected not to participate).  The press is calling it a national embarrassment and is doing a pretty good job of investigating.  As an aside - I remember as a young man when the press in the states used to do investigative reporting on topics other than Lindsey Lohan's rehab.

Earlier this week they reported that the government could not state definitively how many fatalities occurred during construction of the CWG facilities, but they think it was less than 50 people.  The same article happened to mention that during the construction of Dehli's 2 Metro lines there were 109 fatalities.

I understand that their are 1.2 billion people in this country, but geez. 

The reports are that there have not yet been any fatalities on the job that I'm managing, given they haven't really kept track at the CWG, I'm not confident that its true.  If so, its pure luck.

As an example, I went out on site one night during my first week here to observe them placing a 170 ton U-girder 40+ feet in the air.  I was very encouraged to find that they had nice equipment which was more than adequate for the job and that they were being very diligent in setting up the cranes out-riggers (apparently cranes falling over is a common occurrence here - I've yet to see anyone compacting their backfill).  My senior field person (a great guy, well intention, experienced, and very helpful) proudly pointed out how he had struggled to teach them what to look for when setting the out-riggers.  He then proudly pointed out that after years of coaching he had finally convinced the crew that they had to wear safety harnesses when working at height.  I of course congratulated him, but I'm afraid I then almost broke his heart, when I suggested to him that we stop the work while he tried to convince the crew that wearing the harnesses didn't 'accomplish much if they didn't then connect (tie-off) the harnesses to something nearby. 

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