Sheltech-The Daily Star roundtable urges companies to take the lead in absence of effective govt monitoring

Recruitment of workers through informal process, poor government monitoring system and lack of awareness among workers and contractors are among the major barriers to ensuring safety in the construction sector, experts say.

Speaking at a roundtable, they also said the construction firms should put in place their own safety measures and monitoring mechanism at the construction sites, instead of depending solely on the government.

They called upon the authorities concerned to follow a formal recruitment process and train workers to use safety equipment properly, saying the rights of the workers, including their safety, would not be ensured unless they were recruited in a formal manner.

Sheltech (Pvt) Ltd and The Daily Star jointly organised the roundtable, titled “The Way Forward to Ensure Construction Safety in Bangladesh”, at The Daily Star Centre in the capital yesterday.

Citing a study, Sheltech Director Saamiya Seraj said the construction industry saw deaths of 147 workers last year. On an average, 100 workers die, either falling off buildings or being electrocuted, every year. Many other workers suffer injuries and respiratory or skin diseases.

But the designated government bodies could not properly monitor safety measures at construction sites due to a lack of manpower, she said, adding that in many cases the bodies seemed confused about their roles in enforcing safety rules and ensuring accountability after death of workers.

Saamiya also said many contractors and construction firms did not show interests in taking safety precautions as they would have to pay for them.

She called upon the companies to set up their own multi-layered monitoring system and train up workers.

Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, said construction industry is one of the biggest industries in the country. But the industry does not have any “permanent workers”.

“The recruitment process depends entirely on the contractors. Why such a huge industry would not have any permanent workers?”, he questioned, urging the authorities to make a policy to recruit workers in a formal way.

He claimed that many construction companies and contractors do not value workers' lives.