They clean wastes and garbage to keep the city clean and hygienic without using any protective gears, exposing themselves to various contagious diseases.
Some of the cleaners claim they are “immune to any health hazards associated with the job” but experts say they are at risk of contracting diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and even AIDS.There are 912 cleaners working under the Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC). Besides, more than 100 cleaners are employed through 12 NGOs to collect wastes from houses.
Besides, several hundred day-labourers clean the sewerage system of the city during Eid and work on daily-wage basis at different times.
These workers under the NCC collect garbage from different places and dump them at designated spots. But no-one of them use any protective gear provided by NCC.
“They collect wastes and garbage without wearing gloves, boots, or masks. The garbage includes rotten vegetables, dead animals, and even entrails of chicken, cattle and goats,” a municipality official said.
The scenario in two hospitals is also serious. The hospital staff openly clean medical wastes, which is dangerous to human health, without using masks and dump them at designated sites.
Medical wastes include syringes, needles, blood, cotton with pus, tumours, bandage-gauze, hand gloves, medicines and medicine bottles, saline and other chemicals.“Garbage is always risky. It’s extremely risky if the garbage is removed without any protective measure,” said NCC Medical Officer Sheikh Mustafa Ali.
“But the cleaners aren’t aware that they’re at severe risk and they’re not taking it seriously,” he added.
The cleaners refused to talk to the UNB correspondent.
One of them, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “We’ve been doing this work for years. We always work barefoot, collect wastes with our bare-hands and without masks. Nothing happens to us. We don’t need protective gears.”
Alamgir Hossain Hiron, Conservancy Officer of NCC, said they provide the cleaners with gloves, masks, shoes and even raincoats. “They sell those instead of using them,” he said.
“We repeatedly tell them (about health hazards at work) but our words are ignored. The situation has improved. Nowadays many staff are aware of the dangers and use protective gears,” Hiron said.