Workplace deaths double in 2016

Rabiul Awal, a welder, fell from the third floor of a building in Libya. He is now under treatment at CRPMahmud Hossain Opu

699 died and 703 were injured in the workplace last year

Bangladesh has experienced 1,402 casualties in the workplace last year, a report of the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) says.

The report, scheduled to be released on April 30, says the number of the casualties almost doubled from 2015. In 2016, 699 workers died in the workplace and 703 people were injured.

In 2015, the number of deaths was 745, in 2014 it was 1,288 and in 2013 it was 7,650, including the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse.

The riskiest sector appears to be transport, where 249 workers died last year.

Last year, the ready made garments (RMG) sector experienced nine worker deaths and 206 injuries. Of the injured, 145 were female.

The RMG sector is recognised as formal sector and after the Rana Plaza incident many compliance measures were taken by the government.

BILS Senior Researcher Afzal Kabir Khan said although compliance measures to ensure safety at the RMG workplaces were taken but they were not implemented fully in all factories.

“There are more non-compliant factories than compliant ones in the country. BGMEA (the garments sector trade body) say they have listed 5,000 compliant factories, but I think there are 5,000 more outside that list,” he said.

Many compliant factories also forward orders to sub-contract factories who are often non- compliant.

“Also, there are not enough labour inspectors to monitor all compliance measures.”

Casualties at construction sites present a more alarming picture. In 2016, there were 182 casualties on construction sites, of which 85 were deaths and 97 injuries.

But construction workers are not recognised by the Labour law 2013.

Afzal Kabir Khan said: “Eighty percent of the workers are in the informal sector. They are not covered by the labour act. So this is not a law for the workers.

“This is why employers in the informal sectors find it easy to abuse workers,” he said.

Even in the agricultural sector, the country experienced 48 causalities, among whom 46 people were killed in the workplace.

Agricultural workers are not covered by the labour act either.

Afzal however, praised the trade unions’ and government’s initiatives to include domestic workers in the law and initiatives to ensure insurance coverage for construction workers.

“Although it will no doubt be a long journey, we still hope that all workers from the informal sectors will be included in the labour act and everyone’s safety at the workplace will be ensured,” he said.

At the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) in Savar, this correspondent found that currently 37 patients are admitted there with workplace injuries and most of them are informal sector workers.

Most of them were injured by falling from a height, falling while carrying a heavy load or hit by a heavy falling object.

The CRP is a non-profit that provides low-cost treatment for patients with injuries and disabilities who cannot afford such treatment.

Asked about the safety measures at their workplace, the injured workers admitted at CRP said there were none.

From July 2015 to June 2016, 93 people were admitted to the CRP with workplace injuries.

Md Shafiq-ul Islam, the executive director of CRP, said: “The number of patients getting admitted here are going up.

“It is distressing that employers are still not becoming conscious about ensuring the safety of workers in the workplace.”

Shafiq thinks the traditional work practices in the country is responsible for many workplace casualties.

“RMG workers are working continuously in the same posture without any break every day, which might cause disability or injury at one point,” he said.

The government needs to ensure safety measures for workers in the informal sectors, he said.

“For that we need a central framework that will ensure safety measures, insurance schemes and accident schemes.”

The International Labour Organisation estimates that over 2.3 million fatalities and 300 million accidents causing injuries occur in the workplace each year.

However, these estimates do not properly reflect the magnitude of the problem, nor the real impact of occupational accidents and diseases on workers, families and economies.

This year on the eve of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2017, the international body asked member nations to produce better national data for a better understanding of work-related accidents, injuries and diseases and to underpin effective policies and strategies.

ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder said in a message for the day that countries that have good data will be better placed to fulfil their commitment to implement and report on the global plan of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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