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Tazreen tragedy raised the workplace deaths to 490 in 2012

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Dhaka, Jan 1, 2013: At least 490 workers were killed at the workplace across the country in 2012 with reports of deaths at the highest in last five years, says a report published by Safety and Rights Society.

The 490 workers died in 327 workplace incidents in 2012 with the fire at the Tazreen Fashion accounting for 112 deaths. Some 388 workers died in 2011.

Safety and Rights Society, an NGO working for promoting safety and rights of workers, revealed the data today (January 1, 2013) when it published its report at its office in the city’s Mohammadpur.

The report is based on monitoring 26 daily newspapers (15 national and 11 regional newspapers) between January 1, to December 31, 2012. Safety and Rights is the only NGO to monitor regional newspapers as well as national ones. The report does not include deaths of workers outside the workplace or deaths of workers in road accident on the way to or return from workplaces.

The research found that the highest number of workers (173) died in factories and other manufacturing organisations, followed by construction sector (149), service organisations like hotels, workshops, power supply organisations (82), agriculture and others sectors (86).

In the previous years electrocution was the cause of the highest number of deaths but in 2012 fire was the cause of highest number of deaths  (117 workers) while 111 died in electrocution and 75 died after falling from height (i.e from scaffolds). 37 were crushed to death by machinery or hard objects.

The remaining 94 workers died from various causes including boilers explosion, chemical and gas explosions, suffocation as well as earth, roof and wall collapses.

Sekender Ali Mina, executive director of Safety and Rights, said the actual number of the workplace deaths is almost certainly to be more than the numbers set out in the report as many workplace deaths are not reported in the newspapers.

He stressed the need for significantly greater effort on the parts of employers and owners to take measures to reduce the level of risks that workers suffer. He also called for the need for state regulatory bodies to enforce compliance of employers/developers with the duties in the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 and the Bangladesh National Building Code 2006.

The organisation observes that most of the electrocutions occurred when iron rods carried by construction workers came into contact with live electric lines passing near the under-construction buildings or when the workers are involved in construction work or worked as an electrician.

It also observes that the workers fall victims to electrocution, as they are not provided protective equipment like helmet, gloves, shoes etc during the work. The main reason why workers fell from high places was due to poorly made scaffolds (macha) and lack of ropes and harnesses.

The organisation proposes that there must be proper enforcement of the laws by regulatory bodies including RAJUK, and the Department of Inspection for Factories & Establishment. Employers should also establish health and safety policies for respective organisation, safety plan before undertaking construction work, providing proper PPE (personal protective equipment) free of cost, regular fire drill and health and safety training.

In 2010, the organisation identified 383 deaths in 270 incidents.