Labour rights groups on Tuesday blamed absence of proper inspection by the government agency concerned and factory owners’ negligence for the frequent boiler explosions, which claimed so many lives across the country.
They claimed that the latest boiler explosion on Monday at Multifabs Ltd, a garment manufacturing company, in Gazipur that killed at least 13 workers, proved that the safety measures in the readymade garment sector were not adequate.
It was unfortunate that all the parties – the government, factory owners and buyers – concentrated all their efforts on structural, fire and electrical safety while the boiler safety remained neglected for long in the country, they said.
IndustriAll Global Union emphasised the urgent need to address boiler safety in garment and textile factories in Bangladesh, saying that there was still an enormous amount to be done to improve safety in the garment industry.
IndustriAll, also the signatory of Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the platform of EU retailers, said that the Multifabs Ltd was inspected by the Accord but the platform’s inspection does not cover boiler, which is monitored by the Bangladesh government.
According to the officials of the office of chief inspector of boilers, there are over 5,500 boilers approved by the office while there were more than 25,000 unapproved boilers in several cottage and medium industries across the country.
The officials admitted that they were not able to maintain an effective boiler inspection across the country for an acute manpower shortage.
‘It is really difficult to ensure quality and safe boiler in the industries as the number of inspectors of the office is only eight including the chief inspector,’ Mohammad Abdul Mannan, chief inspector of boiler, told New Age on Tuesday.
He said that the number of boilers increased due to the expansion of industries and it was not possible to conduct regular inspection across the country with the existing three regional offices in Dhaka, Chittagong and Rajshahi.
Mannan said that the boiler at Multifabs Ltd exploded for wrong operation as the maintenance department of the factory was running the boiler manually, bypassing the automatic electric safety system.
One of the boiler inspectors of the office said that the validity of inspection of the boiler had expired on June 24 this year.
‘The government cannot avoid the responsibility of the boiler explosion that killed 11 workers as there was no effective mechanism in the country to check this
kind of casualty,’ executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed told New Age.
The factory authorities would also have to bear the responsibility of the death of 11 workers as the authorities operated the unapproved boiler ignoring the safety of workers, he demanded.
He alleged that the existing inspection system was concentrated on structural and fire safety but boiler safety was being overlooked for long.
Demanding a massive reform to the inspection system, Sultan said that the government should upgrade the boiler act which was enacted in 1923.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of National Garment Workers Federation, said that the government, factory owner and buyers would have to take the responsibility of the lives of the workers.
He alleged that there were many flaws in the boiler inspection system. In some cases inspectors renew approval without inspecting the boiler.
He urged the government to bring all the boilers (approved and unapproved) under the regulation insection to save lives.
IndustryAll Bangladesh Council chairman Muzibur Rahman blamed owner’s negligence for the boiler blast.
Terming the incident ‘killing workers by factory owner’, he demanded that the factory authorities be brought to book.
Muzibur demanded compensation for the victims as per the convention of International Labour Organisation.
The chief boiler inspector said that the industries ministry in December last year sent a letter to the public administration ministry proposing upgrade of the office of the chief inspector of boilers with the required number of manpower to cope with the expansion and modernisation of industries in the country.
The ministry proposed increasing manpower to 235 with the setting up of five more zonal offices in Gazipur, Narayanganj, Mymensingh, Khulna and Rangpur.
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