Although the issue of workplace safety has gained much attention in the recent years, especially after the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013, a rising number of accidents in garments and other factories have once again intensified the need for labour security in the country.
According to Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE), a specialized foundation that works for the implementation of labour rights, the number of workplace death in 2016 was higher than the previous three years.
At least 1,242 labours were killed and 371 were injured at their workplace in the year 2017 while the number was 1,240 last year. About 92.9% of the deceased workers were male and 7.1% were female, the statistics show.
The research also found that most of the death and injury occurred in the street, either during the rush towards work or return home.
The report says that some 42.1% of the total deaths were caused by the road accidents while the other major reasons were electrocution, lightning and boiler explosion.
The information was disclosed at a press conference held at Dhaka Reporters Unity in the capital on Saturday. The statistics was compiled from 15 national newspapers and information collected by the organisation.
The report also says that only 270 workers who died at the workplace this year are from the
formal sector while 912 deceased workers belong to the informal sector.
Vice Chairman of the foundation SM Morshed said about 89% of the workers in the country is engaged in the informal sector and there is no regulation to ensure their workplace safety.
Boiler explosions: A serious threat
According to the report, a total of 97 workers died from boiler explosions across the country this year and most of these explosions occurred due to the use of expired boilers in factories.
On July, some 13 workers of Multifabs Limited garment factory in Gazipur’s Kashimpur were killed in a boiler explosion and 53 others injured. The subsequent investigation found that the boiler had expired a month before the incident.
On April 19, a boiler in Dinajpur’s Januma Auto Rice Mill exploded, taking the lives of 18 workers, and injuring 12.
Saki Rezwana, chairman of OSHE, said they had observed that in Rajshahi, Khulna and Rangpur, a boiler inspector has to monitor more than 600 boilers. There are only 240 inspectors to monitor 85,000 economic units across the country.
SM Morshed called for a separate division under the Labour Ministry to monitor boilers in various factories.
No easy access to compensation
Besides, the government is working on formulating a policy, in line with the ILO convention, for financial assistance as compensation for the dead and injured labourers.
OSHE vice chairman also urged the authorities to transfer the Labour Welfare Foundation office from the Secretariat to somewhere else so that the labourers or their family members can have an easy access to the office to receive the compensation.
He also said information technology (IT) facilities must be improved, so that labourers can have better access.
Labourers affected by asbestosis
While speaking to the press, SM Morshed emphasized on controlling the deteriorating situation caused by Asbestosis, long term inflammation and scarring of the lungs, found among shipyard workers.
Quoting ILO, he said a total 100,000 workers died from Asbestosis (caused primarily by Asbestos) across the world.
Ship-breaking labourers are at the high risk of getting affected by Asbestosis. OSHE have sampled 33 ship-breaking workers and one-third of them were found affected.
They urged the government to take initiatives to ban the indiscriminate use of asbestos.