A large number of construction workers die in workplace accidents every year for lack of safety measures, but the authorities concerned appear indifferent to the alarming picture.
Poor safety measures and lax monitoring at workplaces are mainly responsible for deaths of construction workers, experts said while talking to the daily sun.Although the national building code specifies various safety measures for construction workers and employees, but only few of them are followed, they noted.
Sources at Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) say 1,509 workers lost lives in workplace accidents across the country in the last 10 years, suggesting 150 deaths on average a year.
The actual number of deaths was higher than the reported one, experts said adding that the casualties could have been reduced if the authorities took proper safety measures.
While visiting some construction sites, our correspondent saw that workers are not using basic safety gears such as gloves, helmets, glasses, safety belts while first aid kits are not kept at construction sites. Besides, no monitoring was seen at the sites.
As per the national building code, people working on the roof of a building must wear safety belts but this safety measure is absent at most of the construction sites.
Annual Workplace Safety Report 2017 of OSHE shows that a total of 179 workers were killed and 42 others injured in accidents at construction sites in 2017.The report also says some 147 workers were killed in 2016, 172 in 2015, 165 in 2014, 175 in 2013, 175 in 2012, 116 in 2011, 138 in 2010, 2016 in 2009 and 136 in 2008.
Repon Chowdhury, Executive Director of OSHE, said, “Out of the 179 deaths in 2017, some 175 took place in the informal sector. The existing labour act is only applicable to the formal sector.”
According to Safety and Rights Society (SRS), a non-government organisation working for improving workplace safety, some 144 workers died in workplace accidents in 2017.
The SRS prepared the report on the basis the reports of deaths in accidents published in different news media in between January and December 2017.
Ali Hasan, a construction worker, said “I am working as a painter for the last 10 years and most of the time I work without any safety measures.”
“We use safety equipments only when contractors forced us to do it. Otherwise we are unwilling to use it,” he added.
Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 and Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC) 2006 were formulated to ensure safety of workers across the country.
As per the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006, compensation for the death from an workplace accident is Tk 1 lakh and for permanent injury it is Tk 1.25 lakh.
Many construction workers said they were often deprived of their due compensation.
Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) is entrusted with the job to oversee the matter.
But the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments appear indifferent to the matter.
Md Sekender Ali Mina, Executive Director of Safety and Rights Society, said, “Employers don’t care much about the death of a worker as punishment is not strictly implemented as well as compensation for victim’s family is very low”.
“Poorly-made scaffolds at construction sites and negligence in abiding by the BNBC rules are some of the reasons behind the death of workers at workplaces,” he added.
“A large number of construction sites across the country do not provide basic safety gears such as gloves, helmets, glasses, safety belts and first aid kits,” he further said.
Sekender Ali also said the number of deaths of workers that came in the report is an underestimate, since many casualties are not published in the newspapers.
Although many of the injured workers succumb to their injuries later, in many cases, follow-up reports are not published in the newspapers, he noted.
According to the construction workers union and others organisations, about 35 lakh people work in Bangladesh’s construction industry.
The OSHE executive director said that every body knows that construction sites lack safety measures. Legal action is hardly taken against safety rules violations.