Non-addressed safety mgt helping rise of accidents, causalities in Bangladesh : research
Dhaka January 13 2022 :
Industrial safety in the non-RMG sector has been deteriorating day by day due to lack of safety measures undertaken with regard to structural, fire and electrical issues.
Most of the sectors or establishments confronted accidents and casualties mainly in housing, hospitals and market places, commercial and factories.
Fire incidents and causality are on rise during past six months of 2021. There are a average of two incidents per day happened during the mentioned period.
In service related activities, highest level of risks is observed in case of shopping mall or market is 42.3 per cent, educational institutions is 223 per cent and health care services is 19.23 per cent.
Non-RMG enterprises and establishments have been rising in the country because of growing economic activities targeting local and export markets.
Fire related accidents and deaths and injuries have been rising mainly in four clusters – Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayangonj and Chittagong.
These rising sectors include food processing, plastic products, textiles, processed leather, basic metal products and non-metallic mineral products – mostly vulnerable for occupational safety and health.
Fire related accidents are on rise because of lack of proper monitoring and enforcement of different compliance standards by different public agencies. There are weaknesses in safety related laws, rules and acts concerning fire, electrical, structural, boiler and environmental issues.
Factory owners and management have limited interest to invest in safety measures.
Workers are not fully aware about the safety concerns and most of the non-RMG factories have no safety committees.
No pressure from stakeholders including consumers, workers, and CSOs to ensure compliance standards. There are meagre punitive measures under different laws, rules, acts (e.g. Boiler Act 1923, Explosive Act 1884) made reluctant to the factory management to undertake proper compliance measures.
Such findings came out from a media briefing organized by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in collaboration with Christian Aid in Bangladesh titled ‘Fire Incidents in Workplaces and Workers Safety: Where are Corrective Actions?’ on Thursday at CPD’s city office for disseminating research findings.
Executive Director, CPD, Dr. Fahmida Khatun preside the briefing session, while Nuzhat Zabin, Program Manager, Economic Justice, Christian Aid in Bangladesh delivered introductory remarks.
Research Director, CPD, Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem presented key findings revealed by the research.
The research had suggested that Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) – led initiative to identify the safety concerns of a sample set of factories is a positive initiative. The initiative has yet to deliver the expected outcome due to lack of leadership, problem of coordination, limited capacity to handle the data for identifying the problems and limited technical expertise. Given the sluggish progress of the overall activities so far, it is doubt whether the initiative ultimately deliver the expected outcome.
The BIDA-led process confronted a number of operational challenges.
There is difficulty in coordination between different offices responsible for factory. There are problem of managing time by the officials of the DC offices in different districts in participating inspection. The officials of DoE and PWD have other departmental engagements and could not maintain the time schedule for inspection. There are excessive work pressures on the officials of the department of explosive and office of chief boiler which is owing to shortage of human resources. In some areas, one official is a member of 8-10 inspection teams. Database management is likely to be a major challenge particularly to deliver overall and factory-specific challenges and recommendations.
BIDA should develop a common digital platform to store data, disclose the data and publish the inspection progress quarterly, half-yearly, or annually. In order to ensure transparency and accountability in the monitoring system, BIDA needs to provide a strong leadership role in implementing the measures in time bound manner.
Necessary resources, logistic support and human resources need to be made available for concerned public offices and inspection teams for timely implementation of the inspection.
The operational modalities need to be simplified in order to quickly complete the inspection works and start working on the important next part – remediation related measures.
A large team with representatives from different public and private organizations who have different types of constraints and limitations have slowed down the process of inspection.
It is highly unclear what would be next step after completion of the inspection. How the inspection related outcome will be used? Who will guide factories in identifying their weaknesses and how those will be addressed by firms? Which organizations will take responsibility whether the remedial measures are appropriately been carried out by firms?
If the remedial measures are not done properly, then how to take measures to alert firms?
It is important for BIDA to invite International Labour Organization (ILO) in the implementation process given ILO’s long experience of working on industrial safety related issues.
Based on ILO’s proposal for short, medium and long term activities to be undertaken, necessary plan of work could be designed and implemented accordingly.
BIDA should ensure that different private sectors which are targeted for inspection should be on same page in maintaining the quality of inspection.
In terms of providing necessary support for inspection, extending cooperation in the implementation process of suggested measures.
Dhaka and Narayangonj which are the most concentrated industrial clusters have found with least progress in inspection despite having the required logistics and human resources.
Raises question on accountability of the inspection process.
Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) needs to report the fire incident separately for chemical, plastic, textile, and aluminium sectors as most of the fire accidents in non-RMG enterprises took place in those sectors. FSCD should focus on major industrial clusters more (especially in Dhaka and Chattogram). FSCD should increase their operation and inspection in hill track and highland areas. According to ILO (2021), liaising with inspection departments to identify 2-3 sectors in which to initiate a fire safety action plan is immediately needed.
They need to identify 3-4 key fire safety measures that have most impact on building safety.
Developing checklist, simple report format, follow-up methodology on key fire safety issues are required. Fire safety licensing for multi-departmental licensing approvals coordination (e-fire license linked with LIMA) needs to be developed. Capacities of FSCD professionals through an internationally recognized certification program needs to be developed. Fire science and engineering curriculum and laboratories for engineers and fire professionals developed
The research also suggested Department of Inspection for factories and Establishment (DIFE) should coordinate the Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC). RCC needs to be involved in the inspection and monitoring process of non-RMG factories with necessary human resources and logistic facilities, According to ILO (2021). SOP for labour inspectorate on building safety measures and develop capacity of DIFE to exercise role on fire safety, are immediately needed. Fire safety licensing for multi-departmental licensing approvals coordination (e-fire license linked with LIMA) needs to be done .Jointly develop SOPs identifying roles of each department on fire safety enforcement in existing buildings (Fire service act, BLA, BNBC defined roles), is important.Fast-track rollout of DIFE Industrial Safety Unit and establish relationship with FSCD and other inspection departments, are required. DIFE and FSCD inspectors need to complete the ILO-ITC fire safety management (FSM) and Fire Inspector course (FI) as prerequisite for workshop.
The research had also recommended to the Department of Environment (DoE) should recruit more inspectors, officers and provide necessary training for proper inspection. The transportation problem should be resolved as early as possible in order to complete the initial inspection as quick as possible. The DoE should maintain regular inspection of the non-RMG factories and should increase awareness related to environmental cost and damage among the industrialists. The boiler and explosive-related laws and acts need to be amended as the inspection checklist developed based on some century-old laws and acts.
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