No government body is monitoring occupational hazards at construction sites even though hundreds die each year in Bangladesh.

The building rules of 2006 refer to Bangladesh National Building Code, 2006, for safer construction of buildings. The code still awaits enforcement.

On October 13, the High Court asked the government to establish National Building Code Enforcement Authority in accordance with the code but the copy of the order is yet to reach the authorities concerned.

The order was issued after three rights NGOs, including Safety and Rights Society and Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust, filed a writ petition following Rangs Bhaban tragedy of 2007. The accident left a number of construction workers dead.

Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) Chairman Nurul Huda said Rajuk is monitoring whether construction is being done in accordance with the Rajuk approved designs. It does not look into workers’ safety.

According to Safety and Rights Society, an organisation working with work-place accidents, said a total of 142 workers’ death at construction sites of Bangladesh were reported in newspapers in 2010.

However, quarters concerned said the number of deaths at construction sites is much higher than the reported figure as the Dhaka Medical College morgue and its emergency department alone receive one or two such victims every day.

As there is no government authority to monitor safety for workers and safety measures at construction sites, the owners are indifferent in this regard.

The code (part-7 of construction practice and safety chapter) say that basic precautionary measures like safety anchor belts for workers and canopy or protective scaffolding around an under-construction building is required to ensure public safety.

In most cases, the workers are not provided helmets, gloves, boots, anchor belts or uniforms recommended by the code, said Programme Director Sekender Ali Mina of Safety and Rights Society.

It also noticed that the scaffoldings were made in traditional ways without ensuring proper safety.

Rashedul Islam, 16, died after falling down from the seventh floor of an under-construction building in the city’s Banani on February 6.

On a spot visit, The Daily Star reporter saw that safety measures were poorly maintained. Very thin bamboos were being used for making a platform on which several workers stand with construction materials.

Even bamboo supports behind the platforms were not properly tied together.

Witnesses also told him that Rashedul had no anchor belts, helmet or anything.

Such indifference to safety measures by authorities concerned causes deaths and injuries not only to workers but also people around the sites.

On January 24, four-year-old Tawhid Hossain died on the spot while the scull of six-year-old Maruf was damaged as bricks fell on them from an under-construction building. They were playing near the building at East Rampura.

No precautionary measures were used at the site.

The HC directives asked the government to establish the National Building Code Enforcement Authority in accordance with the Bangladesh National Building Code, 2006, within one year of the receipt of the judgement.

Until the National Building Code Enforcement Authority is established, respondents were directed to designate Rajuk, Chittagong Development Authority, Khulna Development Authority, Barisal City Corporation, Rajshahi City Corporation and Sylhet City Corporation as the code enforcement agency within three months of the receipt of the judgement.

And it also asked to submit progress report to the court every three months on the performance and functions of the interim code enforcement agency. The report should also include the status of implementation of the National Building Code all over Bangladesh and the progress of establishing a fully fledged authority.

Source: The Daily Star – 03.04.2010