Integrated, sustainable measures required to prevent death at workplaces

Contemplating workplace security becomes challenging when there are already limited job opportunities. Many individuals opt for hazardous jobs due to the scarcity of alternatives. Primarily, the responsibility for ensuring workplace security rests with employing agencies.

According to a survey by the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment (OSHE), approximately 1,432 people lost their lives in workplace accidents last year, compared to 967 the previous year. This signifies a 48 per cent increase in casualties due to workplace accidents from the preceding year.

It was said at a press conference that of the people who died in accidents at workplaces 1,103 were in informal sectors and 329 were in formal sectors.

The number of casualties is the highest in the transportation sector with reports of 637 workers' death at work. Apart from that, the number of casualties was 220 among the daily wage earners, 149 in the construction sector, 146 in the agricultural sector, 94 in the production sector, 64 in the garment sector, 53 in the fishery sector, 26 in the service sector, 17 in the ceramic sector and 26 in other sectors.

The OSHE foundation is saying that accidents in the transport sector are rising due to the lack of proper implementation of the directives mentioned in the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 (amended in 2018) and Bangladesh Labour Rules of 2015 and appointment of untrained drivers.

The foundation has made several recommendations including ensuring implementation of the law to prevent accidents, formation of safety committees including owners and workers and a grant of Tk 500,000 to Tk 1 million as compensation to the families of the workers who died at work.

It’s not hard to implement the recommendations of the OSHE. The rate of accidents will come down exponentially if the employing agencies ensure safety of the workers at the workplace.  At the same time, the owners will not have to pay big compensation when there is no accident.

The OSHE foundation has provided a figure of casualties at workplaces based on the reports published in newspapers, but there are many accidents which are not covered by the media. In this case, the number of casualties at the workplace will be much more than what has been revealed. Especially, nobody cares about death at the workplace in the informal sector. Besides, there are many incidents where the domestic helps are tortured to death. These sorts of cases are usually covered up as natural death.  A car was set on fire over the death of a domestic help in the capital’s Banashree recently.

A flawless security system is required to prevent accidents at workplaces. There is no alternative to it in case of risky work. Especially, high rising buildings in our country are still constructed in an obsolete method, where the rate of casualties is high too.  

According to the figures of the OSHE, some 637 workers were killed in accidents in the transport sector, which is the highest among all sectors. Most of these accidents are the result of reckless driving. In this case, the owners also have some responsibility as well as the workers in these accidents. In many cases, the owners force the drivers to drive for extra hours, resulting in accidents.

Even though it is not possible to completely stop the casualties at work places, it is possible to curb it by taking an integrated initiative and if all the parties agree to abide by the law. In that case, the persons behind the accidents must be brought to book by means of proper investigations.