Engineers Without Borders – Community partners from the quarry sector in India visit CMPA

By on June 26, 2012

Kristen Wood, Returned Overseas Field Volunteer, Engineers Without Borders Australia reports on the quarry links between Australia and India.

TWO Australians recently spent a year working on quarries in India as overseas field volunteers with Engineers Without Borders. Engineers Without Borders works in partnership with developing communities within Australia and overseas to assist them to gain access to the knowledge, resources and appropriate technologies they need to improve their livelihoods. Madeleine Jenkins and Kristen Wood were working with an organisation known as Santulan on community water supply and occupational health and safety.

Santulan are a community partner of Engineers Without Borders Australia, and they work to improve the living and working conditions and to fulfill basic rights for quarry workers in India. In India, it is common for quarry workers to live with their families in makeshift huts surrounding the pit. There is no dust control, PPE or workplace safety training. There is also very little mechanisation or automation of operations and almost all the work is done manually. For a quarry in Australia that would require 15 employees, a similar quarry in India would require almost 300.

In India, Kristen and Madeleine worked with Santulan and the quarry workers to begin to identify common hazards and develop strategies to minimize the risk of harm. They assisted with the delivery of health programs for children and workers, developed plans to provide access to clean drinking water for workers and produced an occupational health and safety training DVD in Hindi.

In May 2012, the director of Santulan, Mr Bastu Rege, toured Australia to raise funds for the construction of a school for children from Indian quarries. While in Melbourne, he visited the CMPA offices in Kilmore with representatives from Engineers Without Borders. The first thing that struck him was the mandatory occupational health and safety induction video – “We don’t have anything like this in India!” he said, wide-eyed.

The next stop was Northern Quarries in Epping. For Mr Rege, a visit to Northern Quarries was like a glimpse into the future for stone quarries in India. He compared quarries in Australia and India as being like ‘the sky and the earth’, in that they were two extremes. Mr Rege was awestruck by the cleanliness, quiet and order of the Australian quarry. The Northern Quarries representative escorted the visitors around the site and into the control room and generously shared his experience of quarrying with Mr Rege.

The visit to CMPA and Northern Quarries was an incredibly eyeopening experience for Mr Rege. He sees that on the one hand, increasing automation in Indian quarries will save lives, but will pose other challenges for quarry workers as it will deny many people a source of income.

It became clear from the visit that the future focus of Santulan’s work will be to build higher-level skills among quarry workers as operations become increasingly automated.

Engineers Without Borders and Santulan thank the CMPA and Northern Quarries for their incredible generosity and openness in sharing their story. The knowledge shared will certainly help pave the way for safer, healthier quarries in India.

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