The Daily Star – Another ship-breaking yard mishap

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7 September 2015 - Safety standards must be enforced

Eight workers of Shital Enterprise are fighting for their lives in hospital after being critically injured when a gas cylinder exploded at the ship-breaking yard in Sitakunda Upazila where they worked. These men in their prime, were getting ready for work when the accident occurred. The extent of their injuries points out once again the total disregard on the employers’ part for workers safety. Ship-breaking yards in Chittagong are notorious for terrible work conditions and frequent accidents. Just this year, five workers have been killed in accidents and many have been severely injured at various shipyards in the district. Lack of protective gear and proper supervision to ensure safety are causes of such terrible loss of life and limb.

It is unacceptable that an industry as huge and risk-prone as ship-breaking should still be in such a primitive state that allows these horrible accidents to occur. The apathy and negligence demonstrated by employers violate basic labour laws that make it mandatory for workplaces to maintain minimum safety standards.

In this particular accident it is believed that someone with a lit cigarette entered the scrap yard where there may have been a leaky gas cylinder, which caused the explosion and subsequent fire. If that is so, there should have been proper monitoring and dissemination of information regarding safety rules that would have prevented such carelessness and its disastrous consequences.

With regard to the injured, Shital Enterprise must take responsibility of taking care of their treatment and paying them adequate compensation. Companies at these shipyards must be required to provide safety gear to the workers and also have awareness programmes regarding precautionary steps to avoid these mishaps that take away precious lives and livelihoods.