A typical workplace
In the United States, mining accidents have led to a troubling 31% increase in worker deaths. Josh Edelson/AFP

Migrant construction workers have been trapped more than 650 feet inside a collapsed highway tunnel in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand since Sunday. Some of the 40 men trapped inside have reportedly started to become ill, exhibiting symptoms including dizziness, fever and vomiting.

Rescue workers renewed efforts on Thursday to reach the men trapped for a fifth day, though progress was slow as they began drilling through rock and soil debris. Authorities said they were confident an advanced drilling machine flown in from New Delhi would speed up the rescue at the site. The plan is to drill and create space for a pipe that can be used by the trapped men to crawl out to safety. Unfortunately, it seems results are likely still days away.

The tunnel is part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Char Dham Highway project, a multimillion-dollar infrastructure plan to improve connectivity in the state of Uttarakhand, a mountainous and picturesque state on India's border with China, and better access to important pilgrimage locations.

Other disasters include a massive fire that broke out at a coal company's office building in China's northern Shanxi province, state media reported on Thursday. At least 26 people have been killed and 38 others injured.

In the United States, mining accidents have led to a troubling 31 per cent increase in worker deaths.

In 2020, a Canadian worker suffered critical injuries after falling from a scissor lift work platform while installing a silencer on a fan in the Lac Des Iles Mine's ventilation system. At the time, the guardrails on the scissor lift platform had been removed. Impala Canada Ltd. failed to ensure measures and procedures prescribed by the Mines and Mining Plants Regulation were carried out in the workplace. The company was fined $50,000.

Indian authorities have contacted the Thai team that rescued a boys' soccer team from a flooded cave in 2018 in the hope that they can offer their experience and expertise on the matter.

While not a workplace incident, that story captivated the hearts of millions of people around the world as a group of young boys were trapped in a cave. Twelve members of the team aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach entered the cave after a practice session and became trapped for days after water flooded the cave trapping them.

The current crisis in India has once again raised questions about safety standards and how employers ensure their workers are working in as safe of an environment as possible. The question is, how can employers ensure safety? And how can authorities ensure employers are adhering to the standards set down in law?

Obviously, miners work in an unsafe environment compared to, say, an office worker. But in general, employees must know, regardless of the field they are in, that they can go to work in the morning and return home safely at night.

Companies and regulators in the mining industry specifically, must work together to improve and enforce safe work environments for the miners. Companies should focus on conducting regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards, providing comprehensive training to miners on safety procedures, investing in high-quality safety equipment, implementing health monitoring systems, developing robust emergency response plans and fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes safety. Regular maintenance and upgrades of safety equipment are crucial.

In safer work environments, such as offices, employers are legally required to ensure a safe work environment. Ergonomic workstations are vital, with adjustable chairs, appropriately positioned computer screens, and desks at the correct height to prevent strain or injury.

The physical safety of the office is paramount, necessitating clear walkways, proper lighting, hazard-free areas and accessible fire exits. Air quality and ventilation are crucial for preventing health issues, requiring regular maintenance of HVAC systems and a pollutant-free environment.

Mental health and stress management are increasingly recognised as part of an employer's responsibility. This includes providing resources for stress management, ensuring reasonable workloads, and fostering a positive workplace culture.

Offices must have clear emergency procedures, with employees trained in fire drills and evacuation plans. Health and safety training should be provided, covering ergonomics, first aid and emergency response.

Regular health and safety audits are essential for identifying and addressing potential hazards and workplaces must be inspected on an annual or semi-annual basis. Companies must comply with health and safety laws and regulations, and employers should foster psychological safety.

Whether in a mine or an office, employers are equally responsible for ensuring their employees have a safe environment to work in. Sometimes, their lives depend on it.

By Daniel Elliot

Daniel is a business consultant and analyst, with experience working for government organisations in the UK and US. On his free time, he regularly contributes to International Business Times UK.