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Death Traps

Death Traps

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Published by zchoudhury

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Published by: zchoudhury on Nov 29, 2012
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04/30/2014

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The Death Traps of Our Work Places
 Ziauddin Choudhury 
One of the most disposable items in our country is human life. Abroad we read about loss of hundredsof lives from sinking of overloaded motor launches in rivers, from runaway buses driven by half trainedoperators that fall into ditches and as added measures deaths from fires in factories in premises thatnever have been inspected for safety. We are used to watching in TV horrific and heart rending videoimages of bodies being recovered from sunken vehicles, scorched buildings, and road side ditches. Wehave seen and read about righteous indignation of our public officials at these incidents, dire threats of punishment to those responsible for such disasters that are never carried out, and empty promises thatthe nation will never face such disasters again. But while the families of the countless victims wail andlament their losses, the people who are primarily responsible for these deaths and disasters, and theirfacilitators such as our public officials, are quick to point fingers elsewhere and try to absolve them of any wrong doing. It is as though the people who perished in these disasters end their lives voluntarily.When will we learn to take ownership for these completely avoidable disasters? When will we learn totreat each human life as an asset that is more valuable than the product it makes? The recent Ashuliadisaster is just another addition to the countless incidents of total callousness that prevails in thecountry over safety and protection of workers from work place hazards. We have had fires in garmentfactories before several times where workers lost their lives. Only a few days ago we had fires in a lowincome housing area surrounded by unsafe factories where lives were lost. Close to the heel of therecent Ashulia fire we also had this lightning-like accident where girders fell off a fly over constructionproject that killed eleven people in Chittagong. In none of these accidents or disasters in the past weheard the people who owned the factories or the buildings come out and take ownership for thetragedies or take measures that would prevent repetition of such incidents. We also did not hear of anypunitive action against the defaulting owners by the government. Instead, if I recall correctly, there wereplenty of talks of deep conspiracies against the garment industry by persons unknown that were labeledas the causes of frequent fires. No one talked about setting up standards of safety for the factories andworkers, their rigid implementation and monitoring by government. Each incident was allowed to passinto oblivion until another happened.As in all disasters or accidents in the past a host of reasons has been cited in the press for the Ashuliaand Bahaddar Hat misfortunes. These include failure to operate fire extinguishers in the building,blocking exit routes of workers, and in the case of Chittagong incident faulty crane that lifted the girders.Absent from these reports is any indication or statement whether the factory owner or the fly overconstruction company had any failover mechanism in place that would ensure safety of workers orequipment. It is also not clear what role the owners played during and after the incident besidesannouncing some gratuities to the victims after the fact.The Ashulia incident and the other incident in Bahaddar Hat in Chittagong would not have happened if we had taken lessons from the past. These would not have not happened if we had employed a

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