The news of the atrocious death on May 3 of a very young mother who worked in a factory in the province of Prato made a great impression. To which, two days later, was added that of a metalworker in Lombardy. We can only humanly bow before these tragedies. First of all.
But immediately afterwards it is right to make some considerations on the theme, of great importance, that hovers over these deaths: workplace safety and hygiene, as they say in regulatory technical language. What in the most direct English language is called safety, a word to say everything.
Well, the theme lends itself very easily to emotionally charged positions. Often by political parties, media outlets, sometimes even in a not very objective way. The question must instead be faced with the seriousness and the necessary depth that is required when discussing events that are potentially lethal for the human being. In this sense, the data that have been reconstructed and reported by pagellapolitica.it, a fact-checking site. By consulting Istat and Inail sources and comparing the data series available, it is very clear how in Italy the number of deaths due to safety issues has fortunately fallen for about 30 years.
But analyzing the data well, not as one might have expected. It is necessary to report some figures. In 1990 there were 2.147 deaths from injury and occupational disease. They had fallen to 1.366 in 1995, a notable setback. Since then, however, the line of the graph, albeit between highs and lows, has tended to remain around that order of magnitude: in 2000 they were 1.389, in 2010 they were 1.464 to reach 1.172 in 2015 and 1.270 last year 2020. Of course, the 2020 was a very special year for the effects of the pandemic.
There has not been the perhaps desirable collapse in relation to the technological and organizational advances that in the meantime have affected a large part of the business world. It is also striking to note how, on the contrary, in the same reference period, voluntary homicides according to Istat went from 1.773 in 1990 to 746 in 2000, to 526 in 2010 to reach 271 in 2020.
Numbers, of course. To be taken with intelligence. The evolutionary dynamics of the social economic context should be considered, as a minimum, to understand this trend in depth. Numbers that speak for themselves, however. Contrary perhaps to what it may seem based on the mood of public opinion, the data show us that for thirty years the deaths at and from work have been consistently more numerous than those from homicide. Indeed, the latter have decreased more significantly than the former.
Is there a sense, a meaning behind this? It must be borne in mind that over the years there has certainly been no lack of regulatory attention to protect safety conditions at work. Fulfillments deriving from national regulations but also from local ones, from the laws of Parliament but also from the provisions of many other public administration bodies.
I remember years ago a famous journalist took it upon himself to simply count the number of these different tasks. If my memory serves me right, a number came out around eighty. The exact number does not matter, even taking a look at the Ministry of Labor website in the section dedicated to safety you can realize how many dispositive sources are listed. It is the meaning that is derived from it that counts: workplace safety is an area to which regulations of all kinds really pay a lot of attention. And of course they must be respected.
Alongside the standards, there is thetechnological evolution. We talk about it a lot, all the time: the progressive automation of production processes, digitization, the increasing use of machines and algorithms that replace the human being. Everything has allowed the development of efficiency within companies, and therefore also reduced the real risks for safety. Or it should. Because then it would be necessary to understand well if and to what extent this evolution has really affected the national productive fabric, made up largely of small and medium-sized enterprises. But this is another matter.
Then there is the social aspect: the growing attention, the right emphasis that has increasingly been given to the theme of safety. Fortunately and rightly so, because it is not permissible to lose lives through negligence, inefficiency or, worse, to save costs.
Then, in the face of a similar evolution, one would expect a drastic drop in deaths at and from work. There has been a decline for thirty years now, but not drastic, as the numbers indicate.
In my more than thirty years of professional experience in companies, more than once I have had the feeling that often various forms and documents to be produced compulsorily (in short, the bureaucracy) dominated the "real" substance of workplace protection. That required so much care, commitment, to be able to lose sight of the authentic goal. That they were the sharp foreground of the photo with the background instead blurred.
So, the real point is another: cultural. Once again the keystone is attention to people, priority, prior to everything, constant. Life is the most precious good that the human being has, therefore everything, even at work, must be guaranteed so that it is preserved: the person cannot be considered only a cost.
It is important, as everyone says, to continue it training, the growth of everyone's skills. But that's only one aspect: it is necessary to ensure that the person is truly at the center, it is necessary to invest in people's motivation, in their constant involvement, using other levers and touching many other aspects of business management.
In this way the culture of safety is strengthened, the sensitivity in each one of it is rooted. Both in those who have corporate responsibility and in those who work there. In this way it becomes an integral part of the corporate culture, because safety can never be a question for technicians, the specialist task of those who deal with it by role.
The internal circulars they have are not enough. The classrooms they form are not enough. People need to participate, feel actively involved in the life of the company. The individual is not a set of many pieces, one for the doctor, one for the psychologist, one for the sociologist or philosopher, one for the process or safety technician, but is a whole and as such must be considered. and respected.
Safety in the workplace is strictly functional to the well-being of people and therefore is a management factor that must be integrated with all the others.
It is therefore necessary to work on the technical aspects, then making them respected (organization, procedures, protection tools ...), ie on objective safety. The person feels comforted by realizing that everything "works well". This decreases insecurity.
But it is also necessary to work on people (communication, relational dynamics, motivation, behavior ...), that is, on subjective safety. The person feels involved, an integral part. This increases real security. From the data cited, it seems there is still a lot to do.