A photo published in this paper on November 26 of two men working on a high-rise building without any safety gear or protective measures depicts the vulnerability, precarity and disposability of our construction workers. Only last month, three construction workers met their demise falling from a 10-storey under-construction building in the capital. On November 2, a construction worker died after falling from the sixth floor of an eight-storey under-construction building. But no one—not the errant employers, contractors, building owners nor the relevant government agencies—are ever held to account for these unwarranted and unacceptable deaths.
Despite the construction sector playing a major role in our economic development, we are still lagging behind miserably in creating safe workplaces for our construction workers. Many a time, we have brought the issue of safety of construction workers to the attention of the authorities concerned, but to no avail, and there continues to be a lack of significant measures to ensure the occupational safety and compensation for workplace injuries, namely in the construction sector. According to Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), at least 131 construction workers died in 2019.
The construction workers—one of the worst hit by the pandemic, as they hardly get any government aid or other assistance—precariously toil on sites, risking their lives to make ends meet on a daily basis. We simply cannot turn a blind eye to their rights and well-being. The Labour Act, unfortunately, covers only the formal sector and the construction sector, still being an informal one, does not get the necessary attention that has long been due. We need to address their hazardous situation with due diligence and leave no stones unturned to end our apathy towards the safety of construction workers. We urge the authorities to take note of the shortcomings that are putting people's lives at risk, and to address them immediately as there can be no substitute to ensuring the safety of workers first.