2nd Round Table Discussion: OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH IN CONSTRUCTION SECTOR

Forum for Physical Development of Bangladesh (FPD) has arranged a series of round table discussions on September 14, 2011. On the consequence of that round table FPD has arranged their second round table on 15th October. The second round table discussion was regarding  “Occupational Safety and Health in Construction Sector”.

The round table conference was presided over by Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj, Chairman, FPD and moderated by Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Executive Director, FPD. On the advent of the round table, Toufiq M. Seraj described the aims and objectives of FPD.

Held on: October 15, 2011.

Venue: Sheltech Lounge, Sheltech Tower.

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

The 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. Khan Mahmud Amanat, Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering,Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology.
  5. Md. Habibul Islam, Deputy Secretary, GOB, Chief Inspector,Dept. of Inspection of Factories & Establishment.
  6. M. Mahbub-ul Alam, Joint Secretary, GOB, Member (Development),RAJUK.
  7. Sayed Ishtiaq Ahmad, Associate Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering,Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology.
  8. S. M. Khorshed Alam, Managing Director, Dienco Ltd.
  9. Advocate Fakir Abdul Mannan, Lawyer, Bangladesh Supreme Court.
  10. Kazi M H Kabir, Manager, Environment Health Safety,Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh.
  11. Ahmad Elahi, Executive Director, Building for Future Ltd.
  12. Abu Eusuf Molla. Secretary General, Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies.
  13. Nasharat Arshiana Chowdhury, Senior Staff Reporter, The Daily Manabzamin.
  14. S.I. Rahmat, Sub Editor, The Daily Inqilab.

Jabber Hossain, Editor, Shaptahik Kagoj

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

 Dr. Toufiq M. Seraj, FPD is a forum for the professionals. People of different professions both from home & aboard can take part and give opinions in country’s development activities. Their opinion and experiences will enrich our thought process. The findings of these discussions will lead us to bring out a publication in a complied form which will be reference document for the concerned sectors.

Accident rate in the construction sectors is increasing day by day. Main reasons behind these are lack of awareness and inexperience of labors. FPD is here to facilitate professional’s opinions and ideas on this issue. Now Arch. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, Executive Director, FPD, will summarize the first round table discussion.

Arch. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, He gave a brief of the lecture presented by Arch. Nazmul Haque Khan, Managing Director & CEO, Shuvastu Development Ltd. in the first round table discussion. It contained the main purpose of conference, the reason why are we concerned about Safety. He also discussed about training and awareness procedure, safety regulation, legal aspects for safety in construction sector. He also described the safe work procedures, use of equipment and various types of accidents which are related in construction sector.

Prof. Khan Mahmud Amanat, I like to thank Arch. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal for his presentation. It helped us to know the summary of first round table conference. Safety research should be done addressing the local practices and culture. Among measures of safety, some are not compatible with the culture and practices of our country and labors do not feel comfort to do that. For that reason, it is important to motivate and train them up.

On the other side, in our country most of the construction works are done personally not by the developers. For that reason, it is important to build awareness.

Construction safety issues are not an ad-hoc issue. We are facing these problems now a day, so we are concerned. But it needs long term awareness. We should keep the matter of safety in mind from when the design is started. There are even no courses in the curriculum of BUET about this. So, we need to incorporate about the safety issue. The “Safety first” slogan have to build-in in our mind. These can reduce the rate of accidents in the construction sites.

Mr. Md. Habibul Islam, Dept. of Inspection of Factories & Establishment was set up the labor inspection service in the later part of the nineteenth century for enforcement of laws on the safety and health of workers and conditions of employment of women and children. We have to secure the enforcement of the legal provisions relating to conditions of work and the protection of orders while engaged in their work, such as provisions relating to hours, wages, safety, health and welfare, the employment of children and young persons, and other connected matters, insofar as much provisions are enforceable by Labor inspectors. We also supply technical information and advice to employers and workers concerning the most effective means of complying with the legal provisions. Dept. of Inspection of Factories & Establishment brings to the notice of the competent authority defects or abuses not specifically covered by existing legal provisions.

Dept. of Inspection of Factories & Establishment is not responsible because they are not involved in construction phase. They only approve the plan. RAJUK should also approve the safety plan. In RAJUK 190 people are present to inspect the sector but we require huge manpower. We submitted a requisition of 2221 people. So, lack of manpower is one reason for them to inspect improperly.

According to Labor law, 2006 for death of labor, the owners have to compensate one lac taka and for fatal injury it will be one lac and 25 thousand taka.

On the other hand, in construction sector it is important to involve the Department of Fire Service to train up the labor and to promote the public awareness on construction sector.

Engr. S. M. Khorshed Alam, We the BACI are involved in the construction which is done by government. We are engaged in the construction of roads and highways, bridges and culverts, dams and embankments, ports and waterways, airports, industrial complexes and institutional buildings, etc.

In our construction site, labors cannot evaluate the value of their own life. So contractors have to enforce them to take the safety measures. We see that, when labors are working in the company like Chevron and Hyundai, they are compelled to maintain the safety rules like wearing helmets and safety shoes. But that particular labor when works for an average company, they do not follow the rules. This occurs for the difference of the wages also. The safety also needs some additional expenditure which is not quite possible for an average company or contractor.

Safety insurance is simple for a building because it is considered as a small unit. But it is difficult for bridge or road or any large construction. The people who are involved in construction sector must have to know the rules and regulation about safety. Professionals have no basic idea about safety because the safety issues were not included in their curriculum. Like, they do not know what is helmet, How to use it etc. On the other side, labor should be made concern about their value of life.

A good insurance policy should be there to ensure safety. Insurance encourages labor to follow the safety rules and facilities contractors to provide more safety equipment. Finally, it is important for our country to modernize the technology which is used in construction sector.

Advocate Fakir Abdul Mannan, The compensation law was started in 1923 in Bangladesh. But, people have no clear idea about this law. So, first of all it is essential to realize them about the significance of law.

On the other side, the labors of our country are not educated. They do not know how to use the construction equipment properly, what is hazard and what should they do when accident occur. For them, it is important to train up and force them to follow the rules. The labors have to be eliminated from the work if they are not fully trained. Mass media and the newspapers have to bring this issue up and make the general people concerned about the safety in the construction site.

Mr. Kazi M H Kabir, Accident occurs in power plant sector also. The contractors and sub-contractors are reluctant to ensure safety in power plant. Most of the time, it has been seen that the worker was electrocuted. Accidents occur also for cost cutting of the project by the contractor.

Onsite training is helpful for labor to know about safety measures and it is essential to start certified courses for professionals. Policy makers and professionals should be aware about safety issues. It is important to appoint those people who are qualified for this sector. Right person can make good decision in right place.

The labor laws are related to employment of labor; relations between workers and employers; determination of minimum wage; payment of wages and compensation for injuries to workers. But it does not clearly or defines the compensation process.

Ambulance and first aid play a vital role in construction sector to save lives. The owner could demonstrate to their staff how valuable they are by providing them with high quality first aid training and equipment.

Mr. Abu Eusuf Molla, BILS is a non-government organization to provide training, undertake study and research and share information on labor and related subjects with a view to promote harmonious industrial relations and social justice. The institute takes a comprehensive view of labor and aims at serving the cause of working people.

In our country, construction workers job are temporary. Most of the workers are engaged by contractor. No one can ensure their safety because they work in a small scale. If any accident occurs at that time, no one can bear the responsibility or compensate them to recover the situation.

The owner also does not provide any identity card. According to law if labor work more than 90 days then the owner must appoint him for this sector. But no appointment letters are given by employer or contractor. The labor law, 2006 does not also incorporated women’s law specifically. But now a day, the labors are little concerned about safety issues. So, it is slightly easier for them to get the compensation money.

Safety measures in construction are insufficient and safety devices are not supplied by all construction group. For that reason, it is necessary for the organizations like, RAJUK, BACI to be equipped them properly so that, they can provide training where necessary.

Engr. Ahmad Elahi, We did not have a vigorous compliance about the safety related issues in last decade. But now it is a burning issue. We need to incorporate the safety matters in the design period.

There has been success in safety and quality issues for export oriented business due to strict guidelines, specifications, legislation process. However, construction industry failed to prioritize safety as a major issue. Safety and Health hazards reduce the overall effectiveness of the workforce.

Local builders do not practice Risk Management. We have to plan in order to mitigate the risk. Regular monitoring and control will also reduce the rate of risk. Strong management commitment and worker participation is required to implement the safety and health issues in the construction sector. A regulatory board should also monitor the safety issues. REHAB and IEB can immediately take steps to start “Safety Certification Program” in a co-ordinate manner to generate skilled safety engineers and labor force. It is imperative that we provide a healthy workplace environment in order to make it a safe working place as well.

Ms. Nasharat Arshiana Chowdhury , In our profession (Journalism) we have risk incentives but in the construction sector there is no provision of incentives. If an accident occur we always blame the owner, but owners are not fully responsible for the occurrences. Contractors also show negligence to the safety matters.

Regular training of the labor will lessen the accident rate. Visual training may be helpful here. A doctor can be appointed in a site or a zone for ensuring the health of the workers. An ambulance should be dedicated into site. The labors do not realize the value of their life. If the owners provide the necessary equipment for labor to save their life then the labors will also show interest in safety. Inspection in the site can also reduce the accident, but this culture of inspection regarding safety is not developed in our country.

The role of RAJUK in this sector has to increase and precisely described. We the media also have some role. The media have little power to change people’s opinions. So, they can easily concern people about safety issues.

Rehabilitation of the labor family after accident can also reduce the accidents. All compensation and penalty have to follow the legal procedure not any shortcut process which is illegal.

Mr. Jabber Hossain, The main cause behind the labor accident is the class clash. The working class is being neglected, they are not trained properly, their life is not valuable and they themselves do not realize their personal demands and needs. The upper class is taking the benefit of their ignorance. The mentality and awareness regarding of safety is the main thing which will reduce the accidents. So, some courses should be introduced to ensure the safety. Strict law and punishment will also help us to reduce the accident.

The news papers are not doing the right thing in these issues. They are mostly dependent on the real estate sector for the advisement. Other side, we have some laws but yet to be implemented. In this kind of forum for the safety issues the opinions of the labors is important. They should be invited here, so that we can get a real picture.

Mr. S.I. Rahmat, Construction work can be particularly hazardous. Personal protective equipment, fire safety, electrical safety, and other precautions are essential for safe construction work. Contractors must share the responsibility for all persons on their job, including visitors. They should be able to provide specific safety information that may be needed.

Dr. Sayed Ishtiaq Ahmad,We have to introduce some courses of safety in the university syllabus. So, the engineers will be aware about the issue of safety. Safety issues have to start with the design period and the cost of safety measures can be included in budget. The universities have to do research on this vital issue. Also IEB can establish a department which will be responsible to enhance the safety.

The BNBC requires the owner of the property under construction to comply with the obligations in the Code. The owner is defined to include not only private persons or government departments – but also developers or contractors. In addition engineers, architects and planners have a duty to ensure compliance with the Code. The duties relevant to worker health, safety and welfare are contained in four chapters in Part 7 of the BNBC Labor and the contractors should be enforced to take the safety measures and obey the safety rules.

Mr. M. Mahbub-ul Alam, RAJUK established in April 30, 1987 by replacing Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT). The prime intention of the organization was to develop, improve, extend and manage the city and the peripheral areas through a process of proper development planning and development control. At that time RAJUK comprised an area of 320 sq mile which has been extended to an area up to 590 sq mile under its jurisdiction.

We are proposed an organogram of 3500 officials, but government have approved for 1987 officials. With the available manpower resources RAJUK can never be able to achieve the target and the service will remain at the distance, which people do not expect and deserve.

Safety issues are a serious matter in other countries. Even, in Nepal people obey their law. But in our country, the professionals do not take it seriously. They even do not try to increase people awareness. For this above reasons, after death or physical disability in construction sector the workers are not getting compensation.

It is a responsibility of the professionals to train up their worker. When the training period is completed they provide them a certificate. In Canada, it has been seen that, certificate is needed for an electrician assistant. So, the employers should have to employ the certified technician.

Sharing of responsibility among different organizations is important. There should be a clear integration among the organizations for ensuring safety. There are several acts and laws to ensure the safety and health rights. But it has been hardy implemented. Journalists have a vital role here to make the people concerned. It needs a large scale of publicity to make the people aware.

Arch. Kazi Anisuddin Iqbal, RAJUK officials and Inspectors do not enforce the guidelines’of BNBC relating to health and safety. Now it is a challenge of Government to establish such a body which will enforce the BNBC. RAJUK can out source this responsibility.

Ministry of Labor must build capacity monitoring construction safety. They also can outsource the responsibilities. This process of inspections has to be simplified and integrated. Accountable Self Declaration System should be introduced where the liabilities of safety will be given to the owners.

Thanks everyone to participate and share your views and thoughts. We think your cooperation will be very helpful to formulate suitable solutions. We have the next roundtable discussion on the 25th October, 2011. Thank you everyone again.

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