Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

03 March 2010

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Safety issues a real cause for alarm…

In my life before moving to Ghana, I worked in an industry that made me acutely aware of how important safety is, not just at work, but every moment in our lives.  It is interesting for me to see how much more aware of safety issues I have become, and how they form a real part of my consciousness.

Here in Tamale, I have no shortage of (regular) cause for alarm!  An electrician came to our house recently to fix a few problems, all of which were completed without ever turning off the main power!  I was astounded.  I was recently at a lumber mill, and there was not a stitch of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) in sight;  no safely glasses, no closed toe shoes (let alone steel caps!), and no covering of bare arms.  All of this screamed out to me as horribly unsafe for the men working there.

I also wonder about the inherent safety issues that occur on the roads; we see regular evidence of the results (overturned trucks) from loading too much, too high, then travelling too fast; particularly around corners.  The results are not only loss or damage of goods, but also potential loss of lives.  This is also evidenced in the regular overloading of tros; not just too many people perched precariously in, on top of, and behind moving vehicles, but also livestock, luggage, bicycles, and other goods that are making the journey.

A very common form of transport here is either by motorbike or bicycle.  Yet it is a very small percentage (I’m guessing 10% at best) of motorcycle drivers that wear a helmet, and virtually no-one who rides a bike would wear a helmet.  Having said that, I doubt very much that even if you WANTED to buy a bicycle helmet here, it would be possible, because such things simply don’t exist.  (NB: there was one exception to this rule, when I did see on a single occasion what must have been a professional cyclist out for a training ride replete in his lycra attire, crowned by his helmet).

Other things that ring a warning bell for me include:  travelling at night without lights, heading into oncoming traffic, towing vehicles with rope that has clearly seen better days, and putting 3, 4 or 5 people and/or livestock onto a motorbike designed for 1 or 2 passengers at most.  These are all reasons that give Africa the very justified reputation as having the most dangerous roads in the world.  I can attest to the dangers, as I experience the same on my bike ride commutes to and from work every day.

Of course, I wonder if sometimes one can be “too careful”, and lose the spontaneity and enjoyment from everyday living.  It is possible, but on the other hand, taking a moment to think about the implications of your actions can possibly save your life, and enable you to enjoy another day of glorious living!  With that thought in mind, I’ll hop on my bicycle and take the (scary) plunge onto the streets and hopefully, safely back home!  Has anyone seen my helmet???

Written by Mar(k)

March 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

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