Safety First for Kabul Workers

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USAID helps Kabul Municipality improve the safety of its employees 24 December 2011 | Kabul, Afghanistan

USAID works in close partnership with Kabul’s mayor and municipal staff to enhance the capacities of Kabul Municipality’s administration and management functions.

For the first time, Kabul Municipality’s frontline workers are receiving job safety training. The training program was developed in response to requests from employees that the municipality take steps to improve worker safety.

“On its face, work done by Kabul employees is the same as work done by workers in a U.S. city—removing garbage, planting trees, or paving roads, but workers in Kabul have less protection and encounter far more dangers than their American counterparts,” said Brad Baxter, USAID’s Deputy Chief of Party and a former public works director. “There is no legal or regulatory protection and few workers are provided basic safety wear. At the same time, it is much more likely that a worker will encounter hazardous waste such as batteries or medical waste when picking up trash or that a street worker will be put in jeopardy by an unmarked worksite or an unskilled driver.”

In response to this critical need for improved safety, more than 1,000 staff working in high-risk areas in the departments of sanitation, parks and greenery, and street maintenance received training on workplace safety. Topics included collecting chemical and medical waste safely, precautions for working in areas with high electrical voltage, reinforcing trench walls while digging, and marking a construction site.

Trainees received standard safety equipment including steel-toed boots, hard-hats, work gloves, safety glasses, hearing protection, and a reflective vest.

“I used pictures and simple language to teach workers how to protect themselves. We hope to see significant reductions in injuries and deaths as workers are now aware of risks and wear safety equipment,” said Abdulmatin Izadyar, a project trainer.

For Kabul Municipality, the risks are not just hypothetical. “We have had some of our workers killed on the job. Just a few months ago, a driver killed two men repairing streets. We knew that we had to improve safety measures to reduce risks and we are grateful to USAID for providing this training,” said Mayor Younus Nawandish.