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Bangladesh: calls for workplace safety review

A fire and explosion in south-eastern Bangladesh over the weekend of June 4, 2022, left more than 40 dead. According to reports, hundreds of people were still listed as missing or injured, with the death toll expected to rise. Nine firefighters also died after chemical-filled containers combusted, one after another, around midnight at the BM Container Depot near the main Chittagong Seaport.

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The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed, but Bangladeshi officials reportedly said hydrogen peroxide containers were incorrectly labelled, leading firefighters to use water instead of foam to extinguish the blaze. Reports also suggest the chemicals at the plant were not stored safely.
 
The UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) urges workplaces throughout the country to address safety shortcomings, stating: “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.”
 
The ILO also underscores the importance of an effective industrial and enterprise safety framework; vigilant enforcement; and a training system to ensure a structured approach to: “Mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery,” to all hazards. ILO says this requires: “Improved collaboration and partnership,” between government departments, employers and workers representatives and civil society.
 
Adequate compensation and income support must be given to injured and disabled workers and the families of those who die in work-related accidents. ILO also called for improved safety campaigns targeting transport, logistics and emergency service providers. Recently, government, employer and worker representatives have agreed to roll out a comprehensive employment injury scheme, beginning with the ready-made garment sector and possibly extending to other sectors, according to the ILO. The system includes accident prevention, immediate and long-term compensation, along with rehabilitation to return to work.
 
ILO referred to the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy when a garment factory in an eight-storey commercial building collapsed in the Dhaka District, saying that since then, it has continued to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh, employers’ and workers’ organisations and development partners to improve working conditions in all industries. Governmental monitoring of industries to ensure that industrial and accidental risks are properly understood, addressed and prevented is essential to improving safe working conditions in Bangladesh, ILO spelled out. “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.” 
 
The UN Country Team saw the incident as: "A reminder of the need to work together towards effective industrial and enterprise safety frameworks and their enforcement."  Meanwhile, the UN in Bangladesh called upon all parties involved to: "Apply renewed vigour in addressing the safety deficits in workplaces around the country."
 
CRJ hopes to cover this incident in more depth in our next edition, CRJ 17:3, published in September 2022
 
You can find the full ILO statement on the BM Container Depot Incident here.
To  read the full article go to the UN website here.

Image: ZUMA Press/Alamy

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