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 Sunday, April 23, 2017 Nimtoli,

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nimtoli, Tazreen, Rana Plaza tragedy and so on

M S Siddiqui

A recent Interna-tional Labour Organization (ILO) report estimated that over the 2.3 million fatalities that take place annually, over 2 million fatalities are caused by work-related diseases cancers, circulatory and cerebrovascular diseases, and some communicable diseases. After work- related cancers, circulatory diseases and certain communicable diseases, accidental occupational injuries are the fourth main cause of work-related fatalities.

Another cause aggravates the situation is due to lack of occupational safety and health (OSH) program in the workplaces as studied by WHO and World Bank. Occupational health refers to the identification and control of the risks arising from physical, chemical, and other workplace hazards in order to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment. The work related causes attribute about 3% of lost life every year. Developing countries' population bear more than 80 percent of the global burden of occupational disease and injury and less than 10 percent of the working populations in these countries are covered by OSH standards at the workplace

Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006 required factory occupiers to report deaths, injuries and diseases to the Inspectorate of Factories but it has hardly followed by the stakeholders. National Newspaper and local newspapers are other source of collecting information on workplace accidents, death, and injury of workers. But the limitation is, it only covers news of big accidents followed by death and critical injury.

The Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment Foundation (OSHE) published a new edition of its newsletter. According to the ILO, it is estimated that 11.7 thousand workers suffer fatal accidents and a further 24.5 thousand die from work-related diseases across all sectors each year in Bangladesh. The major causes, found for the deaths and injuries are building/roof/wall collapse, factory fire, electrocution, thunderstorm/lightning, falling from the height, boiler or water pipe explosion, earth collapse and chemical or gas explosion.

This burning issue has made a huge impact in different sectors like Human, Social, and Economic. It has a significant contribution for losses both on the national and international arena, but especially on the Asian arena. ILO estimates also show that work-related diseases and accidents account for economic losses as high as 4% of worldwide GDP (ILO, 2003). Around 4 million accidents at work resulting in more than 3 days of absence occurred in the EU in 2005. Furthermore, social insurance expenditure on OSH e.g. statutory sick pay, disability allowances, industrial injuries disablement and incapacity benefits accounts for approximately 2-3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in most advanced Western economies. Naturally, a need for safety is an intrinsically human concern states that the safety and health standard has proved to be an effective standard that continues to gain popularity in well-established businesses all over the world.

All of the above, other major non-quantifiable costs, such as the insurance and health care costs that affected individuals face, the indirect costs that companies incur e.g. the cost of training inexperienced replacement workers, administrative expenses, production bottlenecks, low employee morale), the impact on families and communities and the inefficiency of having a large proportion of a potentially active workforce being disabled, idle or prematurely retired. The need for up-to-date information on OSH is of critical importance for the purposes of identifying areas of required action and for setting priorities for policy initiatives on improving health and safety at work.

The occupational safety standard in developed country has improved significantly but in developing countries particularly in Asia still in a fatal condition and far from human safety and dignity. In many countries, now the occupational health and safety management that was previously conducted in different countries reveals that safety, health, and the environment has become an integral component to the viability of business for employers, labour unions, governments and environments in general.

It helps bring about dramatic changes in many companies whose practices are now geared towards zero tolerance of health and safety hazards in conducting their business. The ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental) management systems standards, which facilitates the integration of quality, environmental and occupational health and safety management systems by organizations may be taken as a standard to fix a national standard of health and safety of the workplace.

Bangladesh yet to ratify the ILO convention C 155 and C161 and those are concerned with the Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Health Services respectively. The convention C155 is to prevent occupational accidents and injury to health, and illnesses by identification and minimizing the causes of hazards in the working environment. The aim of the convention C161 is to establish and maintain a safe and healthy working environment which will facilitate optimal physical and mental health in relation to work. Although these conventions have been incorporated to some extent in the existing various laws and regulations but are not enforce properly.

According to recent estimates, the global number of work-related fatal and non-fatal accidents and diseases does not seem to have changed significantly during the past 10 years. Recent data from the ILO and from the WHO indicate that overall occupational accidents and disease rates are slowly declining in most industrialized countries but are level or increasing in developing and industrializing countries including Bangladesh.

This is mainly driven by the globalization process and by rapid industrialization in relatively poor countries that are not capable of maintaining effective OSH systems. It has therefore been argued that the need to focus on health and safety is as paramount as ever, given that "the traditional hazard and risk prevention and control tools are still effective but need to be completed by strategies designed to address the consequences of a continuous adaptation to a rapidly changing world of work".

The OHS should be a joint responsibility between the company, management, and employees. They should possess the skills to identify and describe the relationships between the work environment, organization, productivity, and health. Bangladesh needs an OHS policy and law. OHS is often referred to as an important resource for companies in their ambition to create a good working environment. Health and Safety in the workplace is very important to ensure that an organization provides a safe working environment for its employees and to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.

Bangladesh may consider a law for OHS. The main purpose of the Act is to provide a proactive attempt at maintaining a safe and healthy working environment. The law should states the duties of the employer as follows: Every employer shall provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably

practicable, a working environment that it is safe and without risk to the health of his employees. There should be provision and maintenance of the system of work, plant, and machinery that, as far as is reasonably practicable, are safe and without risk to health.

The law must bind the employer for taking such steps as may be reasonably practicable to eliminate or mitigate any health issues of employees, before resorting to personal protective equipment. The arrangements for ensuring, as far as reasonably practicable, the safety and absence of risk of health in connection with the production, processing, use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances are burning issue for all stakeholders.

It must make mandatory provision for providing such information, instructions, training and supervision as may be necessary to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees. The health and safety is not only the employer's responsibility but also responsibility of the employees. Every employee shall at work take reasonable care and safety of themselves and of other persons who may be affected by his act or omissions. Employee shall work together with their employer to enable duties or requirement by the national law and rule to be accomplished and carry out any lawful order given to employees and obey the health and safety rules, and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorized by his employer in the interest of health and safety.

If any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, the employee must report it as soon as practicable possible, to his employer or to the health and safety representative at the workplace or section thereof, who shall report it to the employer. If someone is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused injuries to himself, he must report such incidents to the employer and relevant regulating authority. The responsibilities are clearly stated and explained for every role player/ every individual who is involved in making the occupation health and safety management system functional and successful.

The surprising news is that most of the workplaces have safety and security certificate from Government departments although the human resources in those departments to monitor and inspect all these workplaces. The procedure of issue of such safety certificates is known to all. The department should be made responsible for such yearly renewable "certificates" issued to unsafe workplaces.

How are the officials immune from their professional misconduct and corruption? The Financial losses of OSH are related death, injuries and diseases could rise even up to 10-15% of the country's national product if all the factors are taken into account. Only punishment of employer is not the solution to the problem.

The writer is a legal economist. He can be reached at