It is sometimes argued that improvements in conditions of work
and occupational safety and health are too costly for developing countries.
Expenditures for social purposes are said to threaten the competitiveness,
profitability and even the survival of enterprises which are depended upon to
contribute to economic growth and create new jobs. It is contended that
developing countries can only meet working conditions standards in special
cases, and that general measures which require improvements are unwelcome and
counterproductive interference with more important economic matters.
In response, it may be pointed out that the economic costs of
occupational accidents and diseases are very high and moreover that sacrificing
the worker in order to reduce the cost of production is an unacceptable
principle in even the poorest societies. These arguments are quite valid, but
unfortunately there are many circumstances in which they have not been
sufficiently convincing. There is a tendency to see the costs of improvements as
certain and substantial and the benefits as potential and peripheral.
The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that significant
improvements can be made in conditions of work and occupational safety and
health at very low cost. Many of the ideas which are described are appropriate
for widespread application. It is hoped that these ideas will encourage a change
in attitudes about the cost of improvements and that they will stimulate
inventiveness in the search for better conditions.
Low cost does not mean technically unsound. The improvements
which have been selected for this book are not proposed as alternatives to
established standards, but as ways of meeting and going beyond those standards.
This is especially important with regard to occupational safety and health
hazards. It should be kept in mind that this book is a collection of examples,
not an attempt to deal with occupational safety and health in a systematic way.
Many very important subjects are not covered at all. Because these examples have
been gathered from several countries with differing regulations, some of them
may not be sufficient to meet the standards of every country. In such cases, it
should be clear that the local requirements must be met.
There are several reasons for emphasising low-cost improvements.
The low cost encourages employers to consider improvements favourably. Low-cost
improvements tend to be simple and this simplicity provides opportunities for
immediate action. In addition, the possibility of undertaking a series of simple
actions, each of which has immediate and visible effects, encourages learning by
doing and the development of a process of change rather than ad hoc responses to