A 2020 report by Bangladesh Institute on Labour Studies shows that 729 workers suffered from workplace death of which 384 were employed in the transport sector, 84 in construction sector and 67 in agriculture. The report also states that there were 433 instances of workplace injury. The numbers were lower than those of the previous year – in 2019, almost 1200 workers suffered from workplace death and there were 695 cases of workplace injuries. The number of workplace deaths remained the highest in both 2019 and 2020.
Workplace safety in Bangladesh has been a matter of great concern since the Rana Plaza incident that took over thousand lives. Subsequent to the incident, Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 was amended to incorporate more comprehensive provisions on workplace safety. Chapter 6 of the Act lays down provisions regarding safety at workplaces. Under Section 61 of the Act, the Labour Inspector may direct in writing for the employer to take necessary measures regarding the safety of the workplace or prohibit the use of any machinery, road or plant which may pose risk to the safety of the workers. Furthermore, workplaces are required to undertake precautions for fire and in use of various machineries as laid out under the sections of the Labour Act.
In Chapter XII of the Bangladesh Labour Act 20066, procedures are laid down for the provision of compensation in case of workplace deaths or injuries. The amount of compensation is to be determined as per the Fifth Schedule to the Labour Act 2006 which states that in case of death, the amount of compensation payable shall be Tk 1,00,000 in case of death and in case of permanent disablement, the amount shall be Tk 1,25,000. For temporary disablement, the amount will be payable for one year on the rates laid down in the Schedule. Compensation shall be payable upon the order of the court or under an agreement between the worker and the employer. However, if the worker institutes a civil suit against the employer for such injury, they shall not be entitled to compensation and similarly, if the worker makes an application before the Labour Court for compensation or reaches an agreement with the employer for compensation, they shall not file a civil suit before any court regarding such injury. Any such claim for compensation must be made within two years of the occurrence of the accident or death of the worker.
The aforesaid study also found that 44 domestic workers faced torture in 2020, 16 died and 4 committed suicide. Domestic workers are not covered under the provisions of Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 – as they are engaged in informal labour, their working hours, wages etc. are not being addressed under any law. This, along with the fact that most domestic workers are females and a significant portion of them are below the age of 18, makes them vulnerable to heightened risks of abuse. The Government issued the Domestic Workers Welfare Policy in 2015 wherein directions were provided as to the working hours, rest and wages for the domestic workers. However, the policy does not have the force of law and remains largely ineffective.