374 workers die in workplace accidents in 2013 (excluding Rana Plaza)

by Jasim Katabi

DHAKA, Jan. 2 (NsNewsWire) — At least 374 workers died at workplace accidents excluding Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1134 people (officially confirmed) in the country in 2013 (1 January to 31 December), says a survey report of Safety and Rights, an NGO, today.

The survey shows that during the year, 374 workers died in 286 separate workplace incidents while in 2012, 490 workers died in 327 workplace accidents which included112 deaths in the fire at Tazreen Fashion.

Safety and Rights Society is an NGO working for ensuring safety and rights of workers.

The survey is based on monitoring 26 daily newspapers (15 national and 11 regional newspapers) between January 1 and December 31 of 2013.

The report does not include deaths of workers outside the workplace or in road accident on the way to or return from workplaces.

The survey found that – excluding the Rana Plaza deaths – the highest number of workers (126) died whilst working on construction sites, factories (97) and service organisations (93) (like hotels, workshops, power supply organizations).

Similar to last year the highest number of deaths involved electrocutions, with 99 deaths. 59 people died after being crushed through falling machinery or heavy load or hard objects. 58 workers died after falling from heights (i.e from scaffolds).

Other than Rana Plaza, 14 workers were killed in other building, wall or roof collapses.

The remaining workers died from various causes including boiler explosions, chemical and gas explosions, suffocation as well as earthcollapses.

Sekender Ali Mina, Executive Director of Safety and Rights, said the actual number of the workplace deaths is almost certainly to be more than the numbers set out in the report as many workplace deaths are not reported in the newspapers.

He stressed the need for significantly greater effort on the parts of employers and owners to take measures to reduce the level of risks that workers suffer. He also called for state regulatory bodies to enforce compliance of employers/developers with their duties under the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (as amended 2013) and the Bangladesh National Building Code 2006, and the directives of the High Court in this regard.

The survey found that most of the electrocutions occurred when iron rods carried by construction workers came into contact with live electric lines passing near the under-construction buildings or when the workers were involved in construction work or worked as an electrician.

The report also noted that workers fall victim to electrocution, as they are not provided protective equipment like helmet, gloves, shoes etc at work. The main reason why workers fell from high places was due to poorly made scaffolds (macha) and lack of safety belt, catch- ropes and harnesses.

Safety and Rights Society proposed that there must be proper enforcement of the laws by regulatory bodies including RAJUK, and the Department of Inspection for Factories & Establishment. Employers should also establish health and safety policies for their respective organisations, put in place a safety plan before undertaking construction work, provide proper PPE (personal protective equipment) free of cost and ensure holding of a regular fire drill and health and safety training.