If pictures are supposed to speak a thousand words then the two photographs front-paged in this newspaper yesterday speak more than a thousand words. They depict a manifest malady, but which, regrettably, remains outside the radar screen of the agencies concerned to be attended to and remedied. The pictures are fairly representative of the state of safety of workers in almost all kinds of work places, from high-rise buildings to construction sights to garment factories to road construction to ship-breaking yards, you name it.
One picture is of construction workers working on tall structures dangling by only a piece of rope around their waist as an apology for safety harness. Even more disconcerting is the picture of a worker gas-welding, perched atop another high structure while traffic flow by beneath him. These are pictures of accidents waiting to happen. And accident occurs very often.
These sights are very common in Bangladesh but hardly to be seen in countries where employers take the life of their workers seriously and where the state ensures that the employers provide all the necessary measures needed to ensure workers' safety at the work place, more so when it involves the safety of the public too. Not so in Bangladesh. Money and profit gets the better of the need for safety. If putting one's life at risk was not enough the poor workers have to part with a part of their daily wage to keep their job.
Such is the way that our workers perform highly dangerous tasks as a normal and routine matter; and it is demonstrative of complete lack of attention to the issue of workers' safety on the part of the employers as well as the government. No wonder that there is news of workers losing their lives due to either outbreak of fire in garment factories, or workers falling off the scaffold every other day, or toxic fumes emanating from a ship in a ship breaking yard. These accidents could have been avoided if a little bit of attention was paid to the matter.
We suggest that it is for the government to take the lead in this regard. It being the largest employer, the government must ensure the safety of the workers employed by it and provide the necessary equipment to make that happen. The government must also make it mandatory for private companies that employ people on risky and dangerous jobs to provide safety measures and safe environment for their workers. But this cannot be possible without strict oversight of the implementation of the safety measures and harsh punishments for the defaulters.