By Chit Ko Pe
ONCE a week, there was a time slot for Physical Education (PE) among other subjects during our primary school days. It was the most preferred time for the school boys who would like to play on a pitch of the school’s compound. Whenever a new week started, I was counting down to PE time to enjoy playing with my schoolmates. Despite being a mere 45-minute time, our joy was so overwhelming that it even frequented and sneaked into my dreams at night.
Like PE, another new acronym I do not turn back on nowadays is Toolbox Meeting (TBM). It is daily conducted at construction workplaces before works start. All workers throng at an assembly area and listen to what is preached by personnel responsible for the work. Short is the time with 15 minutes or so, but TBM is so commanding that everyone pays the uppermost attention. Actually, TBM is the job safety briefing.
Legend has it that the words – Toolbox Meeting – originated from an underground mine extraction site in the US some 250 years ago. Some workers were injured or died almost every day there. Casualties kept mounting on. One morning before work, a work-group leader held a meeting with his fellow workers at an open space. There were no seats around, but bare ground only. The toolboxes brought along with them were used as chairs. Sitting on the toolboxes with great comfort they discussed and exchanged ideas for their work safety. The practice went on and was prevalent over the years with the nickname of Toolbox Meeting rather than a direct expression of a job safety meeting. Presently, the acronym of TBM is well-denoted in safety records and reports in all parts of the world.
Indeed, a recent change in my career from the industry sector to the education sector prompts me to adapt to a new work environment wherein TBM is irrelevant and unrelated. The sight of workers I used to have in my view is now replaced with young foreign students. Gone with the time is hassle-prone workplaces left behind in history, and a new cooler environment with an international university in a foreign land starts a new chapter of my career. It is time for me to repay back to the community and relay the industry-based knowledge gained over the years to the next generations through teaching and mentoring. Like me, some subject matter experts are seen here as faculty members sharing their experience and expertise entwined with the syllabus. Myanmar nationals bite a small pie on it – two full-fledged faculty staff as well as two doctoral students with a lecturer role on a work-study programme.
The occupational safety and health (OSH) once regarded as an on-job training course has been gradually transformed and emphatically enhanced to the next level of academic qualification such as a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree. The certificates earned by the students portray academic credentials and professional recognition as well.
It is heartening to have seen that some European countries have taken initial steps to mainstream pre-work education on OSH into the school curriculum since the 2000s. The European Community OSH 2002-2006 Strategy vividly stated it as a general strategic approach. Their mission is to have a well-rounded workforce generation enlightened with safety and health knowledge from the very young phase of their lives.
Keeping abreast with the time in 2000, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formally established its own programme called ASEAN-OSHNET (ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network). It has set its vision on fostering a safe and healthy working environment and bringing about a productive and competitive workforce with a better quality of life. One of its missions is to establish a safety culture in future generations through OSH education for students and school children. The higher educational institutions in the neighbouring countries – Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – have so far expanded and reinforced with research and coursework programmes on OSH. They integrate effective OSH training, OSH management and OSH awareness into education developing a culture of prevention for youths who will be readily safety-oriented even before entering the work.
Gone with the time, young students of the present generation are given such a good opportunity to learn OSH education and are well positioned for safe undertakings of the work in future.
Gone with the time, I’m pleased to pass the baton to the next generation.
(The author is a lecturer at the Faculty of Public Health, St. Theresa International College, Bangkok, Thailand)