Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Accidents are a social problem with a collective solution

At the meeting of the Agrarian Council for Occupational Safety and Health, it was approved to allocate 440,000 euros to actions for the prevention of occupational risks. On the same day another worker died in an accident and many more were recorded. What can be done?

The meeting was held after taking office, with 23 deaths registered (now 28), I called the social groups to tell them that we must create an extraordinary Council. The vice president and adviser of Economy, Employment and Industry, Mar Vaquero, joined that call on his own initiative, who told me that he wants to be with social agents and that he is very concerned about the matter . My first conversation with the counselor was about accidents.

What is the Occupational Health and Safety Council talking about?

We made an analysis of why this happened to social agents. The counselor himself has stated that there are full consensus policies with the General Directorate of Labor, both in Occupational Health and Safety and in Labor Relations. In the meeting we analyzed what happened.

And what happened?

We have noticed that more than sectors there are activities where fatal accidents occur. These are subcontracting activities and are called ‘in itinere’ accidents, when the worker goes to or returns from his job. Because of what happened, we will adopt extraordinary measures, the first is the call for 440,000 euros of state funds, but as I have already warned, this is the first time that in Aragon the autonomous community will be able to decide the destination of these funds, what they will dedicate themselves to.

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How is that done?

With the social agents, by consensus, it will decide which areas to call for, which dissemination actions, training, technical advice, and which sectors we notice must be influenced to solve this problem . In the meeting of the Council, they talked about the leadership of the measures, how the management committees of the companies should talk about the prevention of the risk at work, and how the Government of Aragon saw the vice president fit to establish leadership on his own initiative while there. Because as it was said there, the issue of accidents, of deaths from accidents at work, is a social problem that has a collective solution.

What sectors of activity are most affected?

Construction is where the worst accidents, the fatal ones, happen. And one thing must be said in this sense: we are now talking a lot about emerging risks at work, which are important, and I am not saying that they are not, but what is happening, the worst, are in traditional risks: Height falls, funerals, demolition work… It is necessary to influence and not relax in sectors such as construction, where heavy machinery is used and where necessary that the training of the workers is intense. Above all, before entering the abyss, before entering the construction site, there must be important training or serious accidents will occur.

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Aragón has become the national reference for actions against accidents. What happened?

When I was general director then (2011-2015) Aragón was actually a benchmark in terms of occupational risk prevention programs. It was copied by other autonomous communities. In these weeks that I have returned to the position, I have seen that there are some programs that are definitely sold out. Where I see the possibility of growth and development is in the so-called Healthy Business Network, which currently has 54 companies. This can be an example for others, those with less than 50 workers, who are looking to large companies to improve prevention. That can be a driving program. My goal or challenge this term is to double the number of companies that are part of this network. Leadership is also important, so that in the boards of directors of companies, in the general directorates, in human resources, occupational risk prevention is discussed every day.

They still need to coordinate with the Labor Inspection, which does not depend on the DGA but on the central government.

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In fact, it depends on the State, but in close collaboration with the autonomous Administration and especially with the General Directorate of Labor. All programs or annual Inspection visits are approved by the General Directorate.

The Inspectorate is asking for more resources, it has few people.

In the Inspection of Aragon traditionally the staff has been improvable, put it that way. But it must also be said that we work very well with those who are there. I have a close relationship with the territorial directorate, the three provincial directorates, and at that time I was there and I saw that now they are working hard.

What are your challenges for this new mandate?

The first and most important is the strengthening of agreements with social agents. I say strong because two important bodies unite the work, namely the Labor Relations Council and the Aragonese Council for Occupational Health and Safety. I will say it very clearly: social agents, business and trade union organizations are in article 7 of the Constitution. That is why we need to strengthen the table of social dialogue with consensus policies. Another very important challenge is what I call the external opening of the General Directorate of Labor. The CEO does not wait on the table for companies to come and share their concerns. You can join companies where

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