Workplace accidents killed 161 ship breaking yard workers and left over 200 others seriously injured at Sitakunda and Kumira in Chittagong in last nine years.
Labour leaders and rights groups said that the accidents took place as the owners did not provide safety at their ship breaking yards in gross violation of the labour laws.
Compiled data of casualties released by Bangladesh Occupational Safety Health and Environment Foundation at a news conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity Saturday show that 22,000 workers’ safety issues are largely ignored at the country’s 100 ship breaking yards.
BOSHEF executive director AR Chowdhury Repon said that the data of causalities was prepared by compiling incidents reported in the media.
He said that the number of workers killed and injured in ship breaking yard accidents would be much higher if the casualties of unreported accidents could be taken into account.
Rights activists and labour leaders demanded enforcement of the labour law at ship breaking yards to ensure safe working condition for their workers .
They also demanded raising the minimum compensation payable to the family of each killed or seriously injured worker to Tk five lakh from Tk one lakh.
Repon said making the yard owners agree to provide occupational safety at ship breaking yards was a key challenge.
He said that the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments must inspect ship breaking yards regularly to ensure that the owners provided personal safety gear to each worker.
Ship Breaking Yard Sramik Karmachari Federation general secretary Abdur Rahim Master demanded strict enforcement of labour law through regular inspection of the yards by DIFE.
He said that labour rules make it mandatory to form safety committees at each yard.
He said the owners either don’t allow safety committees or they see to it that their handpicked committees were in place.
Rahim demanded that each ship breaking worker must get appointment letters and identity cards.
He said that workers lacking appointment letters and identity cards could be compelled to work in unsafe conditions as they could be thrown out at sweet will.
BOSHEF data show that 23 ship breaking workers were killed in workplace accidents in the first 10 months of the current year.
Bangladesh Ship Breakers’ Association president Abu Taher told New Age that the data of casualties provided by BOSHEF was not accurate.
But he could not provide the actual data of the casualties and the injured.
He said that that the working conditions at ship breaking yards was improving.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Miscellany