No PPE reduces labourers deaths to mere statistics
Lack of personal protective equipment and safety gears for construction workers is leading to increased onsite fatalities and injuries among them.
Bengaluru: Construction workers employed in hazardous working conditions often avoid using safety gear like helmet, safety nets, gloves, goggles, etc. These safety tools are vital in protecting them from occupational disasters that could even turn fatal in some cases. At the ‘Conclave on Construction Workers Safety, Health and Welfare’ hosted by the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, the police commissioner of Bangalore stated that 313 construction workers have died onsite between 2015 to 2019. A study conducted in 2016 by the International Labour Organization said 165 of every 1000 construction workers are injured on the job daily in India.
Workers have stated that contractors do not provide them with any personal protective equipment. “If we don’t have any safety tools then what will we wear? Not even the most basic equipment like boots and jackets is provided. All the dust particles and fumes go into our lungs,” Shiva Ram, a construction worker in Halasuru said. “He comes once in every five days and only wants the work to be done. Our safety is his last priority,” he said
A research paper by the Indian Institute of Technology published in 2016, stated 48000 construction workers die onsite every year in India. Sreekanth Kogala, joint president of Builders Association of India said, “We only provide safety gear for workers building on large construction sites of more than two acres. We don’t provide gear for smaller construction areas less than two acres with buildings that possess a height of 30-40 meters.”
The department of factories, boilers and industrial safety and health conducts inspections on construction sites twice every month to check whether safety protocols are being followed. They stated that breaching health and safety protocols in construction sites is a crime and could lead to fines and prison sentences based on the degree of the offence. “Under the Building and Other Construction Workers Conditions of Service Act, there are provisions of law to look after the safety measures taken by the employer. If the cost of a project is above Rs 25 crores, then the officers of the department of factories and boilers conduct inspections, if a violation is found a case is filed,” deputy secretary of construction board, Johnson K.G said.
Experts say the lack of organized registration makes it difficult to give them free safety tool kits or educate them about safety measures. The All-India Trade Union Congress (AITU) has stated that there are more than 28 lakh registered construction workers in Karnataka. Whereas the unregistered workers are in crores. According to K. Shivanna, the secretary of AITU, “The department is not bothered as they have entrusted the contractors. It is up to them. Ideally, whoever comes for inspection must provide the safety gear. They are also supposed to give training for the workers under the welfare board training scheme.”
Experts also stress the need for more frequent and strict inspections of construction sites to prevent more disasters.