Kota Kinabalu: National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh) Chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the recent incident where 16 Chinese tourists and their guide were injured when the bus they were travelling in skidded and crashed into a drain along the Beaufort-Papar road should serve to remind once again all those involved in the industry the importance of occupational safety and health (OSH).
He said the victims in the incident that happened at about 7.30pm on Tuesday (Nov 21) were lucky as they only suffered from minor injuries.
“OSH management in the tourism industry is crucial as it will definitely bring positive impact to the safety and protection of not only the workers involved but also tourists.
“Now that our Tourism and Culture Ministry wants to bring in more tourists, with 36 million tourists targeted in 2020, it is all the more necessary to ensure good OSH practices in the tourism industry.
“The tourism sector saw a strong recovery last year, with 26.7 million arrivals recorded compared to 25.7 million in 2015, moving closer towards achieving the 2020 targets.”
According to the National Transformation Programme Annual Report 2016 released by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), receipts also registered an increase of RM13 billion, reaching RM82.1 billion in total, 49 per cent of the RM168 billion revenue targeted by 2020.
Lee said Malaysia also targets to lure four million tourists from China this year and aims to double the number to eight million by 2020.
“Therefore, those involved in the tourism sector should adopt good OSH management and practices to reduce the number of accidents and health problems in the sector.”
He said Niosh has already embarked on various OSH programmes with the private sector and the state governments, especially in Sabah and Johor.
“In Sabah for example, Niosh regional office has implemented many programmes for the tourism industry since 2013, including OSH awareness seminar, defensive driving seminar for tourist bus drivers, basic water safety course, basic first aid and security induction training course for tourism industry workers.
“Niosh is also promoting the “Vision Zero” concept for the industry, in line with the global movement led by the International Social Security Association (ISSA). The pursuit of Vision Zero is not about achieving zero accidents but to find solutions to help prevent injuries and ill health.
“ISSA has launched Vision Zero campaign at the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore early September and it was the first ever global campaign to improve safety, health and wellbeing at work.
“If all those in the tourism industry adhere to this concept, they will certainly take proactive steps to prevent accidents or illness from happening and ultimately help reduce the number of cases every year.
“NIOSH is ready to assist the tourism industry to implement the concept as it is part of its role to provide training, give consultation, disseminate information and conduct research on OSH.
“Although accidents do occur in the tourism industry from time to time, we do not have the actual number of statistics because the sector is widespread and relevant data was collected by different agencies.
“It is important for us to have complete statistics so that better planning can be made to address this issue in the future.”
He said based on the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) information, only 42 accidents in the hotel and restaurant sector were reported nationwide in the first seven months of the year.
“Last year, only 87 accidents and three deaths were reported in the hotel and restaurant sector.
Two of the accidents involved permanent disability.
“Although death and severe injuries did not occur every day in the tourism sector, the risk exists as what had been reported by the media from time to time.
“For example, when a bus or boat ferrying tourists was involved in an accident, the number of victims is usually quite high. Such cases will not only lead to the loss of life but can tarnish the country’s reputation as a major tourist destination in the region.
“It is known fact that taxi drivers and tour buses sometimes had to drive in bad weather or under unsafe conditions and this also exposes them as well as their innocent passengers to a fatal accident.
“Accidents could be prevented if those in the tourism sector adopted an OSH management system based on the concept of hazard identification, risk assessment and risk control (HIRARC).
“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994, it is the responsibility of both employers and their workers to ensure the safety and health at workplace.” – Daily Express