Ctg depot fire a reminder to ensure workplace safety: UN

Ctg depot fire
Photo: Rajib Raihan

The UN has said the devastating fire at the BM Container Depot is a reminder of the need to work together towards effective industrial and enterprise safety frameworks and their enforcement.

"The UN in Bangladesh calls upon all parties involved to apply renewed vigor in addressing the safety deficits in workplaces across the country and we extend our assistance to continue to build a safer Bangladesh for all," said the UN Resident Coordinator's office in Bangladesh in a statement today.

The fire and blast in the private depot in Sitakunda, Chattogram, on Saturday killed at least 41 and injured over 200 people.

The UN Resident Coordinator's office and the International Labour Organization (ILO), another UN body, expressed deep shock at the tragic event and loss of lives including firefighters and destruction.

ILO said this incident illustrates the urgent need to ensure proper handling and storage of chemicals, proper training for storage facility staff at awareness and operational levels, and effective crowd control during an emergency incident.

Additionally, the incident underscores the need for an effective industrial and enterprise safety framework and enforcement and training system to ensure a structured approach to mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery to all hazards, it said.

"This will require improved collaboration and partnership between government departments, employers and workers representatives, and civil society," ILO said in a statement.

It also laid out suggestions on what would be required for tackling this problem.

"These include a review of regulations and enforcement in the transport and logistics sector, the payment of adequate compensation and income support to injured and disabled workers and families of workers who lost lives in work-related accidents, and to conduct safety campaigns that target transport/logistic service providers as well as emergency-service personnel."

Recently the government, employer and worker representatives have agreed to roll out a modern, comprehensive Employment Injury Scheme in Bangladesh starting from the ready-made garment sector, with the possibility of extension to other sectors. Such a system includes accident prevention, immediate and long-term compensation, and rehabilitation to return to work.

The ILO continues to work closely with the Bangladesh government, employers' and workers' organisations and development partners to improve working conditions in all industries, expanding learning from the ready-made garment industry since the Rana Plaza tragedy in April 2013.

"Proper monitoring of industries by the government to ensure that industrial and accidental risks are properly understood, addressed and prevented is essential to improving safe working conditions in Bangladesh," it said.

ILO and the broader UN system in Bangladesh hopes that this tragic accident will drive all parties involved to apply renewed vigour in addressing the safety deficits in workplaces across the country, it said.