Tikrit Iraq – “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” (Author unknown)
Our primary role and responsibility in Iraq is to help our Iraqi colleagues to metaphorically fish for themselves – at least that’s what one safety representative believes.
A little over a year ago Rizgar A. Mohammed an Iraqi translator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division was selected to be a safety representative for the Gulf Region North District. He was selected because he had familiarity with the Corps; spoke excellent English Kurdish and Arabic; strove for excellence; and was concerned for the well being of his fellow countrymen – all necessary ingredients to be on the Safety Team.
In January 2006 10 students (eight Iraqis) attended a two-day class on Safety and Health. The topics presented by GRN safety manager John Blandamer included: Fall Protection Excavation Electrical and Power Tool Safety. The basis of the course is that there are proven methods to allow the work to be completed while maintaining a safe workplace. The goal is to make accidents a rare occurrence. All it takes is a little thought before beginning the project.
In Iraq this idea unfortunately is not common. Even in the United States safety is not always practiced.
After attending this course Rizgar A. Mohammed aggressively pushed forward the concept of safety in his life on his projects and in his community.
To accomplish his goals Rizgar dialogues with members of the Kurdish Provincial Government to adopt safety and health requirements to protect all the workers. He wants to see an end to the number of accidents and deaths on all construction projects in his community not just on Corps projects.
Rizgar suggested that a certain percentage of the contract cost in Iraq should be dedicated to safety.
“When safety isn’t put up front in the contract the contractor may not dedicate sufficient resources” Rizgar said. When the safety budget is limited the contractor purchases a lesser quality of safety equipment (scaffolding hardhats and other personal protection equipment) or none at all he explained.
Rizgar also suggested that safety officers should be assigned to each project site. These safety officers can be on a site every day to observe work practices and train the different crews. His goal is to have trained individuals dedicated to be safety officers on each job.
He also wants to offer the on-site training course to contractor representatives and asked that the GRN Safety Office provide certificates of achievement to students that took the course.
On Dec. 12-14 2006 in a Dahuk hotel Rizgar presented the course to 15 Iraqi contractors. He found the students by encouraging contractors to hire people proficient in English with technical engineering or health degrees and then encouraging them to take his course.
At the completion of the course everyone exchanged contact information which is the initial step to building a safety community. They also were provided compact discs of the Safety and Health Requirements Manual EM 385-1-1 in both English and Arabic numerous sample safety reports safety quick sheets and other PowerPoint presentations to use as references.
In addition to the newly trained safety officers there are seven other students who meet once a week. So by the end of January there will be 22 new safety representatives.