How schools can create the next generation of safety ambassadors 


India CSR News Network

In today’s globalized world, the Industry and the Society have to necessarily engage with each other very closely and dialogue on a constant basis. From a Public Safety perspective, such a dialogue must include the Government, the Regulatory Institutions that exist to protect the interests of the average citizen, Manufacturers, Enforcement Authorities, Academics, Legal Systems, Citizen Groups and others.

Introduction – India’s youth, the victim of public safety challenges?

India is witnessing significant public safety challenges that are crying for attention. Sample this…The increasing population and search for prosperity have led to increasing urbanisation all over the world and more particularly in countries like China and India. Between 250 and 300 Million people are expected to migrate to cities in India in the next two decades. This urbanisation will invite unique public safety challenges. The ever-increasing ‘high-rise buildings’ as well as the ‘high-density settlements’ are areas that need special attention from all, especially the urban planners, public facilities providers and safety specialists.

Our country boasts of having the largest share of youngsters in the world. 50% of the country’s population is below 25 years of age. Unfortunately, this thriving, promising slice of demographic is also the victim of the worst fatalities in road accidents. Indian roads became even more dangerous in 2015 with the number of deaths rising nearly 5% to 1.46 lakh. This translates to 400 deaths a day or one life snuffed out every 3.6 minutes. A study conducted by Supreme Court of India revealed that 20% of all people killed in road accidents in developing countries are under the age of fifteen. A 2014 report suggested that 41% of children in India died every year in road accidents. These figures indicate the urgency of this mammoth public challenge – how to prevent needless death of young children and adults?

Catch them Young: Creating Safety Ambassadors from Schools

Talks about the future of India are often associated with its industry, education, politics, and social dynamics. While India has the potential to become an international manufacturing hub, the safety of consumers depends on the standards of quality testing and public awareness on product safety, while mitigating road accidents, electrical fires, environmental contamination, and hazards in manufacturing. Safety science also extends to chemicals at homes and factories, in jewellery items, gaming products, and toys for children. It implies that safety science should be adopted as a culture and sustained in the country’s future practices. That is where the youth of India, play an instrumental role.

While scampering for forceful policy measures and stringent enforcement of existing safety rules is imperative, far greater success can be achieved by educating youngsters about safety and making them active participants in endorsing safe practices that protect life, health and property.

Science at schools, to anyone’s mind, would come up as images of magnets and circuit boards, plants and animals, colourful and foul smelling chemicals or equations, formulae and complex Greek and Latin names. On the other hand, the talk of a road mishap or a massive fire would be deemed as an ‘unfortunate accident’, despite the principle of Physics, Chemistry and Biology involved. What if young minds in millions of schools across the country were ignited to understand that safety is neither luck, myth nor an accident, but a science?

By challenging youngsters across the country to test their knowledge of safety in a fast paced, national level quiz competition, we at UL, a global safety science company, charted upon an ambitious plan to groom the next generation of Indians to become more safety conscious than their predecessors and permeate this awareness of safety science in every sphere of life. Our company’s efforts in building a safer India is anchored firmly on engaging with academia to advance safety science in an Indian context. This also supports our ‘In India for India’ philosophy at UL.

The National Safety Science Quiz (NSSQ) and Several Pathbreaking Initiatives:

The National Safety Science Quiz (NSSQ), an annual property promoted by UL, seeks to enlighten students about this simple fact – safety is a science. For its young participants, NSSQ is the starting step in a life long journey, to not only comprehend the science of safety, but also become safety ambassadors. First launched in 2014, NSSQ has been growing at a phenomenal pace, adding more students and covering more cities each year.

NSSQ is not merely a quiz competition. To mobilise learning into action, every year, NSSQ culminates in a ‘Safety Parliament’, where the finalists of the quiz table motions about public safety in a mock parliament presided by revered panelists, known for their expertise and contribution to safety science.

In 2010, our Company signed a collaboration with IIT Gandhinagar, aiming to interest under-graduate students in Safety Science and R&D. Through this association, UL is striving, not only to advance Public safety in India but also create safety experts of the future. The lead programs under this collaboration are UL Safety Science Challenge and the UL Safety Science Scholarships. Under this program, UL and IIT Gandhinagar collaborate on select research projects where the large percentage of work will be carried out by undergraduate students. The projects completed so far include reasons for electrical fires, electric 3-wheelers, drinking water purification and kitchen fires. Each year, the winning students are chosen through an open competition to select 8 students. The winners work on the selected project during the academic year and also get the chance to spend two weeks at UL’ laboratories in Chicago, learning the principles of Safety Science.

It is well known that the role of the Social Entrepreneur in addressing large complex challenges like Road Safety is more relevant today more than ever before. Understanding the need to encourage ‘local and holistic solutions’ for Road Safety, UL, in 2014, partnered with Ashoka Changemakers, one of the largest networks of social entrepreneurs worldwide, to launch a competition aimed at crowdsourcing innovative ideas for road safety. Over 80 entries were evaluated by an expert panel of judges with 4 winners being chosen for continued mentoring and support.

In 2015 UL and Youth Services of America (YSA), a U.S.-based advocacy organization, partnered to help Indian youth solve local road safety challenges. Inspired by India’s educators and youth, UL and YSA joined together to support and strengthen participation in addressing the issue of road safety through “Safer Roads, Safer India” leadership programs. Further, as a part of the ‘Safer Schools, Safer India’ campaign, UL together with the Directorate of Fire & Emergency services, Goa, with support from the Directorate of Education, Goa, launched a program to spread basic fire safety awareness among school children.

Over the last year, the Teacher and Youth Volunteers of the Safer Roads Safer India campaign reached out to over 400 youth under 25 years of age across Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune, through various road safety initiatives. This include technical paper presentations for engineering college students, competitions and activities engaging school students, Twitter Chat with the Honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat, Street Plays, activities around World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, to name a few.

As India grows economically and technologically, it is our collective responsibility to help ensure a ‘Safe Society’, safe for its children, safe for its citizens in their daily lives, safe while consuming products and services available in the market. This comes from use of Safety Science at all levels and in ensuring Education and Awareness, especially with children, the future of every society.

(With inputs from UL)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR and Editor.

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