THAT a large workforce in the country faces life-threatening occupational hazards is seldom realised by us, caught up in the medley of so-called priority concerns as we are. It requires an in-depth, stock-taking survey to make us sit up and take note. But when it comes to acting on the knowledge to create a safer working environment we are found wanting.
Having said that, we turn to the results of a survey recently conducted by Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE). These should be an eye-opener for the government and the private sector acting in concert to upgrade the dire safety conditions at work-places. The daily direct exposure to toxic chemicals in ship-breaking, tannery and chemical industries kill off 21 workers every month, cripple and slow-poison countless numbers of them. Thus risks are posed to life, health and productivity of workers.
Answers to the hazards lie in providing standard safety gears to workers and making their use compulsory under regular supervision. In particular, underaged employment in ship-breaking yards needs to be banned as pre-certification is enforced in importing derelict ships for scrap iron requiring clearance in terms of toxic content.
In agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, around 85 percent farmers are said to be exposed to hazardous pesticides and other chemicals. Because of this 30 percent farmers fall ill. They will have to be continually guided about safe use of pesticides by agriculture extension workers. The health of people who till the land, use inputs to grow food and cash crops is pivotal to national productivity --we must bear that in mind.