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Impact of liberalisation on public safety in the transport, water and health care sectors

Impact of liberalisation on public safety in the transport, water and health care sectors

Powell, Jeff ORCID: 0000-0001-7962-3101, Hall, David and Lethbridge, Jane ORCID: 0000-0002-0094-9967 (2014) Impact of liberalisation on public safety in the transport, water and health care sectors. In: Capsized safety, sunken souls - the solution? International symposium on creating safe workplaces and a safe society, 1-2 December, 2014, Seoul, Korea.

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The loss of 304 lives in the sinking of the MV Sewol 14 April 2014, was South Korea’s second worst maritime disaster in its history, and the worst in nearly half a century. This was made all the more tragic by the fact that most of those killed were secondary school students.

The immediate cause of the sinking was a sudden and extreme turn to starboard, causing cargo to shift and making the ship unmanageable. However, investigations into why such drastic manoeuvres were undertaken have revealed a litany of safety failures on behalf of the company, Chonghaejin Marine, inspectors and regulators.

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of Nautilus, the international union for maritime professionals, summarised the failings: “Issues including training, experience, safety management, ship design and construction, and the effectiveness of the regulatory regime are all critical factors in this disaster…”

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (2014) has drawn attention to the role played by the deregulation of the transport sector: “Safety experts are now pointing to excessive deregulations, privatisation of public transport and emergency services, the use of precarious work arrangements and the corrupt appointment of officials in oversight agencies as causes of the Sewol tragedy.”

This report will examine the complex linkages between liberalisation and public safety in transport. From this preliminary investigation, there does not appear to be a universally applicable causal linkage running directly from liberalisation to a deterioration in public safety. However, from a range of case studies, which examine the transport, water and health sectors as well as deaths of workers and members of the public in contracts operated by Serco, what emerges is that the way in which liberalisation is carried out is critical for safety outcomes. The careful construction of a safety culture built up through learning from decades of experience can be swept aside by ill-conceived policy reforms. Increased competitive pressures can lead to a prioritisation of performance and the bottom line over more abstract concerns over public safety. Corruption can play a key role. Institutional realities may mean that a newly liberalised transport sector is subject to new or increasingly corrupt practices.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Safety, Public safety, Transport, Water, Health care
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2020 22:11

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