Industrial safety

Published: July 11, 2018 21:55:14 | Updated: July 13, 2018 22:08:31

That the government plans to bring all the industrial units in the country under monitoring and supervision by setting up a permanent authority augurs well for the industrial sector. The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has proposed for an elaborate organogram under the Ministry of Labour. According to the proposal, there will be eight divisional offices and a separate deputy inspector general office for the Export Processing Zones (EPZs). An inspection body such as this can learn a lesson or two from the remediation carried out by the Accord and Alliance along with the National Initiative. The Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) which was responsible for fixing flaws during the post-inspection period may also be a viable guide for the purpose. But the experience will not be enough to deal with the specially challenging conditions prevailing in certain categories of industries or factories.

Such a government move was long overdue. Yet the initiative needs to be welcomed by all not only in the interest of physical and mental safety in all industries but also in the interest of a healthy environment. There are hazardous industries like steel or re-rolling units, plastic and asbestos factories along with ship-breaking that call for particular attention. The focus was mainly on the garments factories because the industry fetches the bulk of the country's foreign exchange and also the buyers from abroad have to comply with legal provisions in their countries. But some local industries and factories down to the wielding factories and lathe machines here escape any kind of industrial inspection. These are potentially hazardous. It is no secret that re-rolling mills, plastic factories and old leather units in Hazaribagh are accused of providing the most notorious working environment. Unsurprisingly, news of burnt-down plastic factories is not uncommon. Then a most explosive condition prevails in the godowns of chemicals. What happened in old Dhaka's Nimtoli when fire originated from such a chemical godown is dreadfully remembered.

Right now the body envisaged to tackle the industrial shortcomings may not bring the small factories under its ambit but once it has taken care of the larger industrial units it will have to pay attention to the former too. What is important is to set a high standard of safety measures for all productive units in the country. The EPZs have housed clusters of industries, so the suggestion for setting up a separate office under a deputy inspector general should be taken very seriously. However, more organised as these industries are, remediation or improvement of working condition may not be particularly challenging there.

Where it will be highly challenging is in the isolated industries not complying with industrial regulations or in enterprises where regulations are mostly absent such as in ship-breaking. These are areas where competent people will have to be appointed for inspection and suggestions to be made for overcoming the flaws. The task will not be easy for engineers unfamiliar with the special nature of the job. Some of them will have to learn the trade on receiving training abroad.  

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