So much for worker safety

Four day labourers being buried under a huge chunk of earth while they were lifting stones from the Bholaganj Stone Quarry in Sylhet Sunday night brings to the fore the general apathy of the state and society to worker safety. When a group of labourers were lifting stones from the bottom of a deep hole at the quarry, as New Age reported on Tuesday, a huge chunk of sand slid down, burying four of the labourers. As casualties in accidents at work place appear commonplace to authorities, they seem to forget such tragic death after every incident. The number of worker casualties in accidents in the construction sector recorded a sharp 178 per cent increase in the first six months of 2014 compared with the corresponding period the year before. According the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation, 78 workers were killed and 53 injured in this sector in January–June 2014 while the number of the dead was 28 and injured 30 in the same period in 2013. The findings also show that the second highest number of casualties took place in the apparel sector with 12 dying and 55 becoming injured. Overall, the major causes of the casualties were electrocution, factory fire, roof or wall collapse, fall from height and boiler explosion.
Regrettably, however, luck is what these workers are often equipped with, as they go about their work — day in, day out. It goes without saying that many of them ran out of luck in the past and either lost their life or limb. However, the death of workers should not be considered in terms of mere accidents as they happen because of the negligence of owners or entrepreneurs who take no safety measures in hazardous workplaces. Their negligence also should be treated as a criminal offence. That the workers are allowed to work without any safety gears and job contracts or health insurance, undoubtedly, amounts to a blatant violation of the labour law. The violation of the law should be stopped immediately with stringent enforcement of the relevant rules by the authorities concerned.
While worker safety has often been at the centre of heated debates and discussions on different public forums, there has been limited progress towards ensuring it. The fundamental reason for this may be attributable to a general lack of enforcement of relevant rules and monitoring. Indeed, the state must play the leadership role in this regard but society also needs to be actively aware of this issue.

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