Some of us new to the field of Occupational and Environmental Health have wondered when did this field started in Malaysia. We all know that the Factory and Machinery Act was enacted in 1967, but it is not the first piece of legislation that is concern with safety and health of workers in Malaysia. There are already few provisions that have existed prior to independence in 1957, like the 1881 Selangor Steam Boiler Ordinance, 1910 Estate Labour (Protection of Health) Enactment, and 1953 Machinery Ordinance.
However, those are just the legislation, what about the profession. Here I present a piece of publication in the First Bulletin of the Public Health Society of the Malayan Medical Association (MMA), our sister society, by the way it is still an active society in the MMA, Associate Professor Dr Sanjay Rampal is the MMA-PHS Chairperson for 2016/17. The publication was based on the lecture given by J. Blaeske from the World Health Organization at the Malayan Medical Association (Central Branch) on 1st December 1965. In the lecture, Blaeske have highlighted the battery reclaiming workers exposure to lead, arsenicals poisoning in workers and environment, radiation among watch face dial painting, and high-speed machinery and chemicals in textile industries.
He shared a quote from his learned friend, Dr Carey P McCord, “Lead poisoning is like pregnancy, you are never just a little bit pregnant”, and further recommends that the audience examining workers from lead reclaiming operation in the country, we must remember this was many years before the Malaysian 1984 Factory and Machinery Lead Regulation. At that time there were over 350 established limits values for substances used in industry, but how many of those were use in Malaysia at that time. He gave example of Benzol, which with high exposure for five minutes in a confined space is immediately fatal, and low dose will cause bleeding and blindness.
To conclude, he highlighted that “I should like to point out the fact that time is running out and positive steps by Ministry need your support in implementation”. Lets us ponder, fifty years on what have we achieve.
Here is the copy of the article for you to read and digest.
The summary was prepared by Victor Hoe and is not the official view of SOEM-MMA.