Safety is the first casualty at construction sites

Five were injured, three of them suffering head and spinal injuries. The contractors had brought the workers from Bihar to work in Bangalore without bothering to record their identity or addresses. Therein lies a major problem that the State Department of Labour is facing — of tracking individual workers, mainly migrants.

Lack of adherence to standard safety measures at construction sites is one of the reasons for accidents that can cost workers their lives or ability to earn a livelihood because of serious injury. The State Labour Department is not armed with powers to check the safety standards maintained by both government and private construction agencies.

Take the case at Hennur Road where a worker was buried alive after loose soil collapsed on him at an underpass project of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA).

None of the civic and government agencies like the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), BDA or the Public Works department has a safety policy in place. The Labour Department has no designated labour officer to check safety measures at the construction sites. Safety measures are a subject still alien to the Indian construction community.

The Labour Department is pushing the agencies to form a set of guidelines for safety measures covering the whole gamut of construction activities. “Although certain private construction companies have safety measures in place, they have not been followed strictly. The government agencies do not even have a policy in place. We are in the process of drafting safety measures and have invited government agencies to draft their policies too,” said an official from the Labour Department.

Labour Commissioner M S Ravishankar recently said his department had no expertise to verify the safety measures adopted at construction sites. “We have no engineers or experts to evaluate the safety norms for workers at worksites. We have asked the government to depute such experts and engineers. In case of accidents, all we do is assess the loss to the labourers and their family members for providing them the best compensation,” he said.

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