At least eight workers died and 35 others were injured in past five months (January-May) in accidents in country’s shipbreaking yards as workplace safety was neglected in the sector, according to a report of IndustriALL, a global union federation for workers.
The global workers rights group blamed negligence of employers, poor inspections, lack of implementation of safety measures by authorities, inadequate training on safe shipbreaking methods from the government for recurrence of such accidents.
IndusrtiALL data showed that five workers were injured in a fire at Golden Iron shipbreaking yard on May 28 while one worker died from electrocution on May 20 at Bhatiari Steel shipbreaking yard.
On May 15, a gas cylinder explosion at Mahinur Shipbreaking Yard in Sitakund killed two workers leaving four others injured.
An oil tanker explosion at Sagarika Shipyard 18 killed two workers on February.
On February 26, a worker was killed at Habib steel shipbreaking yard while another worker was killed at the SS Confidence yard on January 28, data showed.
IndistriAll said that the number of fatalities in Bangladesh’s shipbreaking sector was around 47 since 2017.
It said the series of recent accidents point to a massive safety crisis in the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry.
‘The negligence of employers and government officials leads to frequent accidents and the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act of 2018 needs to be strictly implemented,’ IndustriALL shipbreaking director Kan Matsuzaki said.
Iterating the demand of the global union, he said that Bangladesh needs to move faster to ratify and implement the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.
IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary Apoorva Kaiwar called upon the government and employers to ensure proper safety measures saying, ‘it is unacceptable that the lives of shipbreaking workers are put at risk.’
‘We are trying to increase our inspections in shipbreaking sector but there are some limitations as we are working with inadequate manpower,’ Shibnath Roy, inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, told New Age.
He said most shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh were in Chattogram and only eight inspectors were working in the area.
‘It is difficult for the department to ensure regular safety inspection in all sectors with limited number of manpower as most of the inspectors remain engaged in readymade garment sector,’ Shibnath said.
He also asked employers to be responsible to reduce workplace accidents in shipbreaking sector.
Mohammed Balal Uddin, vice-president of the Association of Ship Recycling in Bangladesh, said that they were working to reduce the number of workplace accident in the sector.
Ruling out the allegation of employers’ negligence, he said that there were accidents in all sectors.
Balal said that they were adopted all the measures to protect the lives of their workers.
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