1st Round Table Discussion : OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH IN CONSTRUCTION SECTOR

FPD has organized a series of four round table discussions to convey the opinion of expert professionals of the society about the condition of Occupational Safety and Health in Construction Sector.

Venue: Sheltech Lounge, Sheltech Tower.

55, Bir Uttam Kazi Nuruzzaman Road, (West Panthapath),Dhaka-1205

Participants:

  1. Toufiq M. Seraj, Chairman, Forum for Physical Development of Bangladesh.
  2. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Executive Director, Forum for Physical Development of Bangladesh.
  3. Mahmudul Hassan, Member Secretary, Forum for Physical Development of Bangladesh.
  4. A.M.M Safiullah, Vice-Chancellor, Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology, Erstwhile Vice-Chancellor, BUET.
  5. Bashir Ahmed, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, BUET.
  6. S.A.M. Quamrul Alam Chowdhury, Deputy Chief Engineer, DWASA.
  7. Azizur Rahman, Advocate, Supreme court of Bangladesh.
  8. Nazmul Haque Khan, Director & CEO, Suvastu Development Ltd.
  9. Faizur Rahman Khan, Managing Director, ABC Real Estate Ltd.
  10. Abdul Wadud Mia, Director Engineering, Hassan & Associates Ltd.
  11. Md. Omar Faruk, Project Manager, OSHE.
  12. Hamim-ul-Kabir, Staff reporter, The Daily Naya Diganta.

The Supporting Participants:

  1. Planner Md. Ariful Islam, Research Coordinator, FPD
  2. Planner Md. Nazmul Ahsan, Research Officer, FPD
  3. Planner Nilima Nasrin, Research Officer, FPD
  4. Planner Mamun Chowdhury, Research Officer, FPD
  5. Planner Shakhawat Hosen Tanim, Research Officer, FPD
  6. Planner Jannatul Mauya Dalia, Research Officer, FPD
  7. Salma Sultana, Research Officer, FPD
  8. This Round table discussion was presided over by Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj, Chairman, FPD and moderated by Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Executive Director, FPD.

Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj,Thank you everyone for attending this roundtable discussion. At first I would like to introduce the FPD. The organization ‘Forum for Physical Development of Bangladesh (FPD)’ was formed 3 years before. Its activities have been started from 2 years before and we launched FPD formally from last year. It is a platform for the professionals; through it they can express their opinions and recommendations towards development strategies of the country. It is a non-profit and non-political organization is dedicated to research and development of physical infrastructure. We invite all professionals to share their ideas and recommendations for the betterment and development of country as well. We already have organized 2 series of conferences on the issues of Renewal Prospect of Rural Habitat and Earthquake Risk in Bangladesh. All discussions of professionals have been uploaded on FPD website. Today, the main purpose of this conference is to find strategy how to reduce occupational hazard in construction sector. Safety issue has never been discussed widely at professional level. We have to concentrate on what we can do at present. In Dhaka city, there were very few high rise buildings in 40 years back. To comply with Dhaka Metropolitan Building Construction Rules-2008, high-rise are now being built in a small plot like 5 katha. High-rise construction on small plot is much difficult and dangerous than that of large plot. Here we have professionals from different disciplines related to construction safety, so that we can realize the actual scenario of construction safety through discussions. We will consider all safety suggestion from all of you.

Arch. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Thank you Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj, Chairman, FPD. Safety is very significant issue in construction, whether it is a building or a bridge or an electrical tower. Several accidents have been occurred in recent times. The labors have insufficient knowledge about the operation of the equipment and machinery. So they need training and awareness for their own safety. Periodical inspection should be ensured by authorized staffs for reduction of risk. There is no system of certification for the qualified labors. Drivers must require driving license to drive vehicles on the road but there is no such option for construction workers and technicians. They can work in construction site without any training and certification. However, it is the time to form a dedicated government authority which will certify construction workers and technicians through proper assessment.

Our Today’s keynote speaker is Arch. Nazmul Haque Khan, Managing Director & CEO, Shuvastu Development Ltd. We welcome him to present his paper.

Arch. Nazmul Haque Khan, presented a 45 minutes lecture which related video clips, snap shots, along with different rules and regulation practiced in different countries (Presentation File 1). He gave many examples to make the subject matter easy to understand. Nazmul Haque opined that the main stem of safety protocol is described by ILO (International Labor Organization) and OSHA(Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Our BNBC rules also kept the same proposals and rules of our Labor Ministry authority is properly extended their standard from the same source. So, he preferred to present the ILO standard. The presentation included detailed information regarding the safe work procedures, use of equipment, type of accidents and how to prevent those. He also said, We rely on our engineers for the guidance of safe work but, they do not get any training or course on this issue in their academic life. Safety measures have cost, but we must realize we are dealing with life, an accident may be a loss of some workers, time and money for the owner but these are not recoverable for the families of the affected persons. He described many practical problems amidst of his presentation. It’s not clear in the country which authority is responsible maintaining safety in work place. For building construction we blame RAJUK, but it seems that they do not have any such responsibility. In most of the countries the Ministry of Labor is responsible for this except China. In China, this responsibility has given to Ministry of Health. Reports found that at present New Zealand has the most effective and detailed process for safety issue in work place.

We have misconception about the prevailing laws, for any accident the owner of the building will be responsible. He further said, It is impossible for an owner of a building or an owner of a developer company to supervise everything by himself. It is not clear how the responsibility to be transferred.

He also pointed out that, Developers and construction companies are in regular business and it will be easy for them to arrange necessary safety equipment but it will be very different for the individual, small landowners who are making their own houses by hiring some labors.

Prof. Bashir Ahmed, Developers should be committed to protect both people and property. Management will provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment, in accordance with industry standards and in compliance with legislative requirements. They will strive to eliminate any foreseeable hazards which may result in property damage, accidents, or personal injury/illness. There are three important types of safety in the construction.

  • Pedestrian Safety.
  • Safety of public property.
  • Safety of site workers.

Pedestrian Safety is the safety of the pedestrian besides the constructing site. For this some important measures have to be taken like canopy, safety nets in the construction site. Safety of the adjacent public property must be considered. In the site engineers have to be cautious about the power line and the utility which have connection nearby plots. Safety of site workers is the vital issue regarding the construction. Some measure can lessen the risk for works. These are personal protection equipment, protection during work at heights, form works and its support, rigging and hoisting, electrical lines, use of fire protection equipment, housekeeping etc. Concern to personal protection can reduce the risk of accidents. There are some aspects of personal protections like head protection, eye protection, hand protection, ear protection, foot protection.

Other important issue of the safety is defining the liability of the accident. The responsibility of the accident should be distributed in different levels.

  • Senior Management
  • Middle Management
  • Site Engineers
  • Workers

But our habit is to blame the senior management which is the first level of this. Because, in spite of the proper concern of the senior management, there may be an accident in the site for the insensitivity of the other three levels (Presentation File 2).

Prof. A.M.M Safiullah, I appreciate FPD for arranging discussion on this important issue. I also like to thank Arch. Nazmul for his vivid presentation. From my experience, I have seen the construction techniques have been improving but safety in construction is not improved much. I think the main problem is recognizing the hazard. The labors who are involved in the construction activities do not even know what the hazard is and where is the hazard. So the first thing is recognizing the problem and danger then the suitable measure can be taken. Our workers have habits of showing negligence. Their culture is not to be cautious about the risk like they do not want to have helmet when working. May be they are not properly trained, most of the workers engaged in civil construction do not have any background, just recruited and started as a helper, than with time they develop some working skill. They lack education and for that neglect discipline. If we need good standard of work and make our work place safe, we need to educate them. Then they will respect themselves and will also respect their job and will be careful about personal safety.

Workers are not used to the equipment of safety. So they do not feel comfort to use those while working. So the culture of using safety materials must be developed for the workers especially.

Mr. Md. Omar Faruk, The mission of OSHE is to promote human rights at workplaces with special focus to workplace safety, workers health and environment. We extend our effort towards poverty reduction, social advancement and healthy future of workers. We try to contribute in strengthening capacity and teach the labors to be united, as an important contributor of the society, the world of work and development.

According to the economic report of Bangladesh,2010 construction sectors contributed 9.8%, agricultural sectors contributed 4.39%, industries contributed 6.59% and services contributes 6.59% in GDP. 2 million workers involved in the construction sector according to BBS. By this statistics we realize the importance of construction sectors. But in our country, 747 killed and 1074 injured from 2005 to 2010 in different construction sites. In last six months 35 killed, 19 critically injured at different construction accidents in Bangladesh.

These Constructions related accidents occur in the site mostly falling from heights for weak scaffolding, simple injury for mismanagement, short circuits for unconsciousness etc. Long duration of working, poor lighting, and wrong arrangement of the materials may also increase the rate of accidents. To reduce this accident management plays a vital role. They have to distribute all safety equipment in the project and inform the workers about the safety issues periodically by speech or by documentaries.

Between land owner and developers, who will be responsible if any accident occurs, it should be defined clearly. On the other hand in our country safety equipment are limited in helmets and safety boots. Other personal protective equipment are not familiar at all. If the workers are compelled to use the equipment, then production rate falls at first stage because of their unease with these equipment.

Workers may be involved in some trade union and the trade union can facilitate the workers with training of construction safety. A regulatory body is to inspect the construction site that is Department of Inspection for Establishment and Factory  which is not active. Several site engineers said that they never noticed any CIF people in the site.

According to law if any worker has died in construction related work, there will be penalty of Tk.1 lac. But this amount is not applicable in recent days. Recently high court gave a ruling on compensation of Tk. 10 lacs per person for a case of accident with construction lift where four workers died with falling of the lift due to over load. If this judgment is taken as reference for compensation to labors, then the toll will be huge. We may pursue our cases in this way in future. The developers will be careful for such penalty but we do not know what to do with individual buildings owners, it will be a huge amount for them.

Arch. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, “Which law we have to follow for preserving the right of the labors?”

Mr. Md. Omar Faruk, “We follow Bangladesh labor law 2006, which clearly states about the safety of the labors. BNBC also contains a chapter on safety. You have to follow these two about the safety. We are talking about the OSHA and ILO. But those are not law for our country. We will not be accountable for the OSHA and ILO but Bangladesh labor law 2006 and BNBC.

Draft of Occupational Health and Safety Policy is published in the website. Your suggestions and comments will be supportive to make this policy resourceful. A review of Bangladesh Labor Law is going on. In the next session of the parliament this will be final.

Budget related with safety is a concern issue and Building and Wood Worker’s International (BWI) can help you to know more about construction safety.”

Mr. Hamim-ul-Kabir, Workers who are involved in construction sector need to know what is hazard and what should they do when accident occur. With the effective and appropriate use of engineering controls, the adherence to administrative standards and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the probability of a construction related hazard is unlikely.

Workers training about first aid will also be helpful to reduce the rate of accidents. People at work can suffer injuries or be taken ill. It doesn’t matter whether the injury or illness is caused by the work they do or not, it is important to give them immediate attention and call an ambulance in serious cases. First aid at work covers the arrangements you should make to ensure this happens. It can save lives and prevent minor injuries becoming major ones.

Management should have a clear idea about BNBC guide and they should work according to this law.

Engr. S.A.M. Quamrul Alam Chowdhury, In construction sector, training of worker plays a vital role and it is important to monitor the workers every day. Some other aspects can reduce the risk in constructions site. One is safety insurance and other is maintenance of construction equipment every day.

Trade certificate is must for every professional. Like in Maldives to do any works related to construction, a license is must. So, good licensing authorities should be introduced in Bangladesh which will give licenses to the specialized worker like electrician, welder etc.

Every day, it is also essential to describe briefly about safety measures in prior to start their work. In Japan a brief instruction for the safety is given before starting the construction works with the slogan of “Safety First”.

In our country, Engineers Institution must incorporate the course of occupational safety in their regular activities because the professionals are directly related to construction site.

Engr. Faizur Rahman Khan, In construction site, some safety rules are followed but still accidents are happening. So, awareness is important. In construction sector, not only internal auditing but also external auditing is required and it is also important to identify exact procedure and monitoring authority for this sector.

The labor ministry has a procedure of certification but its only eye wash. They don’t visit contraction site, they come to office and give a certificate and we keep it. We don’t know their criteria. Shortage of manpower may be a reason for that. Third party can be involved for such investigations. The existing laws of the country shall be reviewed. The people involved in this sector are not aware of the laws, even the law enforcing department do not have clear idea. The owner or engineers should not be held responsible for an accident by personal negligence of some workers. The filing of case in also questionable, the case is taken directly against the owners with immediate arrest provision, which is unbailable. That means of a painter falls from a scaffold and die, the owner of the house will be taken to jail immediately and it is unbailable.

Dr. Azizur Rahman, In the years 1860 Penal Code was published first by the cooperation of Lord Mackle. According to this Penal Code 336, 337 & 338 whoever does any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred and fifty taka, or with both. But at time no construction regulation was made.

In 1952, Building construction regulation was prepared and then it was again drafted in 1993 but not formally reviewed and updated.  In February 2006the Building Construction Act was amended to include a new section 18 (A), empowering the government to promulgate the building code (BNBC) as a legally binding document. According to law whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or the personal safety of others shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to not less than 50,000 taka, or with both.

We must know that some chapters of BNBC are treated as law, not OSHA and ILO is treated as a law. It is also important to recognize that, the holder of power of attorney will be responsible if any accident happens.

Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj, “Who will bear the liabilities for the accident in construction of government sectors?”

Dr. Azizur Rahman, “Government privileges the employers of their construction site by giving no liabilities. In the Treaty Law 202, 203, 205, 206 sections mentioned that there will be no liabilities of the subcontractor.

The developers are involved in 40% cases. So REHAB has to come forward to ensure the social safety. The employers have to consider their skill and awareness during the appointment of the employees. As any accident for maladroit work of the workers give liabilities to the employers.”

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