Monday, September 8, 2008

Some Welcome Constructive Criticism from a Jaipur Doctor

Last night we had dinner with Dr. Sidharth Consul, an opthamologist from Jaipur and his lovely wife Renu, a general practitioner. He was very interested and very opinionated about the mission of our organization. He seems to think that employees and employers know the dangers they face in the workplace and that the education we aim to provide will not be as helpful as we think. When I asked him what he thought we should focus on, he said that reaching out to employers and making them understand the financial consequences of unsafe workplaces would be more effective.

He mentioned how easily stone cutters damage their eyes, contracting keratitis. Still, none of these workers wear protective goggles even with this knowledge.

My position is that with more complicated occupational diseases like pneumoconiosis, education is more important. However, Dr. Consul seemed aware of these issues and still thinks my efforts should be aimed at employers. He also said it would take a lot of work to pressure these employers since he thinks they simply don't care.

He told me a story about a chicken slaughterhouse that dumped waste into surrounding neighborhoods and swimming pools making people very sick. When Dr. Consul approached the owner of the slaughterhouse, he was shocked to learn that not only was the owner aware he was making people sick, he knew there was a cheap alternative that would take care of this waste. He simply did not care. Dr. Consul is worried that if regulations are not enforced by the law people will never care about safety and the impact their work has on the environment.

I suggested our organization might reward organizations who followed safety regulations and best practices by promoting them overseas as places to import goods from. He thought this was a good idea. I will be talking to more doctors and businessmen here about this business model to see if it might actually work.

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