THE use and operation of boiler in the industrial sector have remained sketchy for decades. In the past 10 months, several boiler explosions took place, killing many of the workers. At least 72 workers died in recent incidents of boiler explosions in factories across the country — in Kushtia, Dinajpur, Gazipur and Dhaka. The most recent incident includes the boiler explosion at an apparel factory in Gazipur which left 13 workers dead and about 50 workers wounded. The committee set up to investigate the latest explosion at Mutifabs Limited listed, as New Age reported on Saturday, seven reasons for the explosion. Five of the reasons, according to the report, involve technical faults and two managerial flaws. The report points the finger at a broken pressure gauge, negligence of operators and structural faults for the explosion. In the context of continued apathy of all concerned, the boiler explosion has tragically become a common phenomenon. The recent record of the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation shows that 13,211 workers have died in workplace accidents since 2005. Yet, the incumbents lack the political will and sincerity to make workplace safe for workers and ensure adequate inspection of boilers. The government needs to shun this cycle of apathy.
The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, with its ridiculously limited human resources, is not capable of effectively playing its role in factory inspection. Despite repeated requests from labour organisers, the incumbents have failed to equip the department with adequate human resources. According to the officials of the office of chief inspector of boilers, there are only eight people designated to inspect more than 30,500 boilers that are in use in the industrial sector, as New Age reported in the first week of July. Besides, out of the total number of boilers, only 5,500 are approved. The unscrupulous factory owners are taking the advantage of it. Against the backdrop of the government’s ill-managed monitoring system, the factory owners often violate the compliance rules. The apathy of the incumbents to bringing negligent owners to justice also contributes to the ongoing situation. It is not surprising that in the Multifabs Limited incident, the police filed a case against workers of the factory, including the workers who died, accusing them of being responsible for the explosion.
The overall lax implementation of law and general disregard for worker safety concerns, therefore, become too costly for workers. The government must immediately increase the number of boiler inspectors keeping to the demand and reality. The inspection department must also be equipped with adequate human resources for an effective inspection. Negligent factory owners must be brought to justice to set a precedent that factory owners are not above the law. Most importantly, labour organisations and conscious section of society must mount pressure on the ruling elites to make a real difference in the industrial sector.
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