14 April 2022
“A 1% reduction in complacency leads to 20 % incremental increase in working behaviour,” Wendy Leslie Pereira, Vice-President, Safety Appliances Manufacturers Association, discusses the pluses of promoting diversity in the workplace with Yogesh Mudras, Managing Director, Informa Markets in India
YM: Post pandemic, what are the key trending areas in Occupational Safety and Health?
WLP: Post-Covid, things are indeed returning to normal, and customers are looking for a lot of technological advancements, which have the advantage of reduced downtime, offering connectivity and, most importantly, reducing the cost of ownership in the long run. Customers have been responding to products that give better mileage. However, a major challenge for industry players lies in bringing high-quality products to such a price-sensitive market.
Knowledge is another vital area where manufacturers have been flocking to in their bid to understand standards, best practices and applications. Most importantly, bringing quality products to customers has become a priority. A lot of group engagements and initiatives are taking place within the industry to ensure the same.
YM: Over the years, has there been a change in the awareness & knowledge of safety practices among Indian workers? How can it be improved further?
WLP: On the one hand, increased manufacturers and industry players have made product availability very convenient. Products are teeming in the market. On the other, the lack of awareness and enforcement of regulations has also diluted the understanding of quality as India is a price-sensitive market.
The quick turnaround time has also triggered a lot of quality compromises in products. Our quality standards and enforcements also need to be dynamic. Most importantly, enforcement needs to work at the lowest level; it has to ensure that the worker, whose life is intended to be saved, is provided with quality equipment that performs when needed, not just for paper compliance.
Intriguingly, our international counterparts are always one step ahead in terms of knowledge of on-ground development in India, whereas Indian players should be taking the driver’s seat in these matters. Manufacturers should understand the responsibility and seriousness of bringing a product like life-saving equipment to market! Besides, access to independent testing agencies in India needs to be made a priority. This will allow seamless testing facilities for all products ensuring back-ups and trust-building among customers.
YM: In terms of advocacy to the Indian government, what new policies should the OSH industry be seeking for the future?
WLP: Advocacy plays a vital role in our industry which has become a mass market. While the Govt is working on guidelines to ensure that standardised products are available to all, certain aspects of the single-use PPE market are a major concern and needs to be examined. Its rampant misuse by certain elements leads to a disastrous outcome. A disposal plan for single-use PPE is imminent. The same goes for the enforcement of regulations in construction.
The 21st-century daily wage worker at a site either is seen with a low compliance PPE or none at all! Rules and regulations are made but seem applicable only for the top – it doesn’t peter down to the end of the funnel for the one who is risking his life for the sake that we have a beautiful home. Take for instance, free-fall protection. An AC fitment in this heat is a huge service demand. However, the safety of the person doing the fitment is not considered at all – it is wrapped under the garb of his experience and skillfulness of doing the job for years so that an accident won’t occur. But the shaking hands of the worker tell a different story. OSH advocacy will require deeper looking into how policies are enforced and implemented on- ground from top to bottom of the hierarchy scale, not just on inspection day but daily. This is where technology plays a significant role and should be emphasised.
YM: The use of technology is crucial to the growth and acceptance of new PPE products. How are your organisations keeping pace?
WLP: I am the Director of a group of 3 companies. At Joseph Leslie and company, we are concentrating on disposable masks, dust mask respirators, head protection like helmets, hand protection and the like –We have a full-fledged high tech stainless steel laboratory with an ISO 13485 mark, so we are doing in house testing, material testings, final product. We either manufacture our products or import them and though higher-priced, we always believe in imparting the highest quality or which our customers trust us. Unicare Emergency Equipment Pvt Ltd is in the business of manufacturing eyewash, face protection, environmental health and safety, Fall Protection, Fire Fighting, Search and Rescue Products. I can proudly say that we are pioneers in the space and have got the BIS mark – and competing very well in the export market. Joseph Leslie Dynamiks Manufacturing similarly caters to respiratory protection, gas detection, training systems, etc. We are doing simulators for the Indian navy currently. I have been in this chair for 52 years, and we have stood the test of time because people rely on us. This is simply because we do not take a product out in the market that is not up to the mark for fellow human beings using it.
Every manufacturer should pass their products through a high level of testing, period checks and market checks -- something akin to European standards (technical standards drafted and maintained by European Committee for Standardization), for instance, would be ideal.
YM: What are your thoughts on promoting the importance of occupational safety and health for working women as a standalone entity?
WLP: From my standpoint, the involvement of women in OSH plays a significant role; the most considerable achievement any woman ever makes is she ensures that show life is an octagon, and she touches all points of this octagon and there is still energy for more!
Participation in our industry is limited; we should bring in more diversity within our systems; this reduces complacency and channelises all-around perfection. A 1 per cent reduction in complacency leads to a 20 per cent incremental increase in working behaviour. This is one of the reasons why Fortune 500 companies emphasise diversity as part of their mantra.
YM: As an agile and multi-tasking woman leader, what has been your success mantra?
WLP: Well, thank you for the compliment. I owe my success mantra to The Creator -- I trust him completely; I also believe in myself and have a passion for what I do. If there is anything in the market, I have a natural curiosity to find out what it is all about! I push my team by telling them, ‘Let’s investigate this!’ Also, for instance, India is growing very fast. Do we really understand the dynamics and the kinds of industries coming up? No, we aren’t. But I like to do my research and homework. I think this comes from passion too. I believe successful people are the ones who are passionate about what they do instead of just waiting to get their paycheck.
Finally, as a leader, I have always believed in being open and accessible. My customers, team, and stakeholders all know that if there is any problem, however small I will get back to them. This, in itself, is a great learning experience.