Receiving compensation for occupational hazards

  • By Khin Yadana
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If a worker gets involved in an accident—injured, fatal or disabled—then the owner is responsible for the event.  
Photo: GNLM/Phoe Khwar

As the rainy season has set in, farmers start to plough the fields. Indeed it is a good opportunity for daily wage earners to get involved in agriculture and animal husbandry. If accidents—serious or fatal—happen to the employees in a workplace, it is usually settled out of court by a meager payment of cash by the owner. Even fatal accidents can be settled in a compensatory payment of little cash or kind.
Once a mango broker hired a daily wage earner to pick mangoes from the trees. In that specific morning, the climber got electrocuted while picking and dropped to death. Being a wage earner, he was not a member of the Social Security; his family didn’t understand compensatory damages, either. Finally the bereaved family members had to content with compassionate grants. Such kinds of serious problems often occur in rural areas.

Compensatory payments
Wage earners and professional employees are generally identified as workers in factories and/or offices. Only a few people understand that they are entitled to get compensatory payments if serious or fatal accidents happen to them in a workplace. After all, the 1923 Compensation Act has been practiced for 95 years. ‘If a worker gets involved in an accident—injured, fatal or disabled—then the owner is responsible for the event. Urban dwellers normally tend to get quick medical treatments than the rural ones. That is why we are going to amend the 1923 Compensation Act for Workers so that they can receive more benefits of medical aid and compensatory damages”, said U Soe Win, Director of Labour Department. Complaints can be lodged through the township labour offices to pay compensation to government servants for their occupational hazards of serious or fatal accidents as well as workers from other departments such as Labor Department and Immigration and Manpower Department.

No compensation for non- Social Security members?
After promulgation of new laws for Social Security, the Social Security members are seen to enjoy social rights and benefits. Five out of ten Social Security members from mills and factories contribute compensation fees. But odd-job men in restaurants or shops have no idea of social security rights or benefits. These men find it difficult to go on if something- accidents or diseases—happen to them.
The Labour Scrutiny Committee was formed in every township so that workers liable for diseases or damages caused could lodge complaints to the Committee; it is composed of township administrator as chairman and a labour officer as a secretary and medical officer as a member.
The Committee handles all the complaints and preliminary investigations have been made about them. Investigations are made whether the complaints are in accord with the existing laws or not; the relatives of the diseased are genuine or not, the injured person himself lodged a complaint or not and the person died in an office or factory or not,” explained an official from the Ministry of Immigration and Manpower Planning. These efforts are being carried out for those workers who are not members of the Social Security. Although the Act was promulgated a long time ago, it would be beneficial for injured or disabled workers in some ways.

Types of compensations
Under the specifications of the Compensation Act, there are four types: fatality, loss of limbs, permanent or temporary disability. If an employee dies in a workplace, 36 times of the diseased’s salary should be given between K. 150,000 and K.450,000 according to the Act. For those disabled persons 36 times or 140% of their salary will be calculated ; permanent disabled persons will be awarded with Ks 200,000 to Ks 600,000. But a disabled person with the help of another person will be awarded with a highest compensatory payment with an addition of 25% of that payment.
The owner has to pay cash or kind in compensation for the injured or disabled persons, the sums in the past are not keeping with the times so the announcement was issued in 2005 to raise the compensation payment for the injured or sufferers. The Committee member of the doctor calculates the loss of workforce in view of health and law. For example, if a compensatory payment of Ks 600,000 is fixed, it must be recommended by the doctor.
Awards of compensation sums depend on kinds of severed fingers; thumbs and forefingers will cost more than other fingers. The calculation of loss of workforce will take into consideration of womanhood, family background and his possible revitalization.”

A notice to the owners
“In our tea shop, a child accidentally ground his hand in the powerful teeth of sugarcane grinder. I sent him to hospital at my own expense and did everything for him for compensation purposes through law courts. As owners, we are totally responsible for occupational accidents or hazards. We should solve the problems publicly but with a clear conscience.’ Explained an employer how a child was compensated legally.
If no negotiated settlement is reached, come over the Labor Office “If accidents happen in urban workplaces, a negotiated settlement for these cases is reached before getting to the Compensation Committee. The main objective is to get mutual satisfaction between the employers and the employees. But in rural areas, it is complex: snakebites, fodder mincers, agriculture and animal husbandry, tea shops , restaurants and household chores and building constructions could cause harm to employees, it is not easy to get something done in compensation. They don’t even know how to lodge a complaint to the township labor office,” continued U Soe Win.
The Labour Directorate managed to give financial benefits to the eight cases of occupational fatalities during the past financial year. In addition, 19 cases of accidents were awarded with financial rewards with 27 beneficiaries, settling with a total of K.44519480. The compensation sums are relatively lower than the current prevailing prices of commodities. But things have eased up more or less now,” said U Kyaw Myint who takes care of rights for the workers. “ If you are not satisfied with the amount of compensation payments, or decisions handed down by the authorities concerned, you have a right to lodge a complaint to the Region high court. If the decisions are right, the complaints are to be dismissed. If not, a case will be opened in a law court. But without an agreement with the Committee, the court is not in a position to pass judgment,” U Kyaw Myint added.

Translated by Arakan Sein

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