THE move of the industries ministry to enact a new boiler law by replacing the Boiler Act 1923 to make boiler administration up-to-date considering the frequency of boiler explosion in recent times, which have claimed lives of a number of workers in different industrial units, is welcome. A committee under the industries ministry, as New Age reported on Monday, has finalised a draft of the Boiler Act 2019, increasing the penalty for the use of illegal or unregistered boilers and the registration, regular inspection and import of boilers. The draft seeks to increase penalties for the use of unregistered and, therefore, illegal boilers or the doctoring of registration numbers of boilers to be punishable by two years of imprisonment or fine up to Tk 2 lakh or both from the existing fine of Tk 10,000. The draft also proposes an increased fine of Tk 50,000 from the existing Tk 2,000 if the owners fail or refuse to produce registration when called on to do so. The draft seeks to deal with some necessary points about the import and registration of boilers; the draft stipulates that no one would be allowed to import boilers or boiler components without prior approval from the chief boiler inspector; and the chief boiler inspector would be the registration authority.
As boiler explosion has become a growing concern as it constitutes a potential threat to life and property, it was more than expected that the government would go for a new boiler law and its strict enforcement. What is of utmost importance is the passage of the law and its proper implementation to bring the hitherto chaotic scene of boiler operation to an order. Skilled boiler operators and regular inspection have also to be ensured by the new law to arrest the string of death of workers from boiler explosion. In the past five years, as records of the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies show, at least 69 workers died and 237 workers became injured from such explosions in different factories across the country. Only in 2017, some 40 workers were killed and more than a hundred were injured in three incidents of boiler explosion in Gazipur, Dinajpur and Kushtia. All this happened apparently because of an inadequate inspection mechanism that it so far has been and has failed to prevent such deaths. There is a shortage of people with the relevant government agencies to inspect and certify a few thousand boilers in operation, which suggests that an adequate and regular inspection has all along been ignored, leaving the lives of workers vulnerable. It is in this context that labour rights organisations have for long been demanded a new boiler law.
While the initiative of the industries ministry to make a boiler law is a timely initiative, the ministry and the other authorities concerned must ensure that the law has no loopholes. In doing so, it must discuss the draft with the stakeholders concerned that include local and international labour rights organisations.
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