Furnace blows up at steel mill
Explosion of a furnace at a steel factory in the city left one dead and 15 workers seriously injured yesterday reminding the horrible lack of workers' safety in this sector.
Eight of the workers of Hasan Steel Mill at Kadamtoli were admitted to the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital with severe burn injuries sustained by melted iron. Four of them are in critical condition.
About 20,000 workers in over 100 steel factories in the country work in very unsafe conditions mostly without any protective gear and under almost non-existent government monitoring.
The deceased was identified as Billal, 26, said Officer-in-Charge Kazi Aiyubur Rahman of Kadamtoli Police Station. He claimed the factory authorities tried to hide the body of the victim and police recovered it in the evening.
The body of the deceased was sent to Sir Salimullah Medical College morgue.
The factory owners could not be contacted for comments and the secretary of the Bangladesh Steel Mills Owners' Association did not pick up his telephone.
Those admitted to DMCH yesterday were identified as Assistant Manager Ataur Rahman, 40, Manager Madan Mohan, 50, labourers Farhad, 22, Raju, 27, Ripon, 38, Fahad, 30, Ahidul, 30, and Abdur Rob, 30.
Locals and the injured said the furnace melting iron exploded around 10:30am. "The furnace of the re-rolling mill exploded with a big bang and the melted iron sprayed around causing the injuries," said Madan Mohan.
The workers were exposed to the melted metal as they did not have any heat-tolerant or protective gear.
OC Kazi Aiyubur Rahman said the cause of the explosion is yet to be known.
In 2008, as many as 1,768 workers were reported killed and over 2,000 injured in accidents at work in different industries, says a newspaper survey.
Centre for Corporate Accountability Bangladesh and some other non-government organisations jointly conducted the study.
In 2000, the International Labour Office estimated that each year 11,700 workers die in Bangladesh in work-related accidents. In 2005, it also estimated that another 28,600 die from diseases caused by the industries they work in and 8.9 million suffer from work-related injuries.
With large number of casualties every year, successive governments just enacted laws but never monitored whether those were implemented.
There is nobody to inspect electric furnaces of steel mills, said steel mill owners.
When asked about any safety inspections, Sheikh Fazlur Rahman, owner of Bikrampur Stell Mills in the city, said, "No factory inspector visits our factory."
"But officials from electric supply authorities sometimes visit our mills as we use electricity," he added.
There are only four inspectors in the boiler inspection office, under the industries ministry, to inspect nearly 6,000 boilers of sugar mills, textile and washing plants, cement factories, hotels and hospitals, said sources in the office.
The office has only 13 general factory inspectors in three categories--general, safety (engineering) and medical--for more than 15,000 factories, including about 5,000 garment factories in Dhaka and Narayanganj.
The Daily Star in 1998 reported that most steel and re-rolling mill industry workers wrap pieces of old vehicle tyres, cloths and plastic sheets to protect themselves from the heat and melted metal.