Girder crash: RAB says Chinese contractor undertook cost-cutting at the expense of human lives

| Updated: August 19, 2022 17:14:42

Girder crash: RAB says Chinese contractor undertook cost-cutting at the expense of human lives

China Gezhouba Group Corporation, a contractor of the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit project, appointed Zulfikar Ali Shah as the safety engineer in 2021. His duty was to ensure safety on the site from Shahjalal International Airport to Azampur in Uttara.

After arresting Zulfikar, 39, and nine others over the deaths of five people in a crash of a girder under the project, the Rapid Action Battalion says he received Secondary School Certificate only, let alone any technical training.

RAB spokesman Khandaker Al Moin briefed the media on Thursday about the information they gathered after the arrests, revealing how contractor Gezhouba put lives at risk to cut costs, reports bdnews24.com. 

No safety barrier had been put in place before a crane dropped the girder on a passing car on Monday. The company did not assign enough people to control traffic.

The estimated time of the project’s completion was five years. But the work has not ended in 10 years and the cost has doubled. The RAB, however, said the company tried to cut corners at the expense of safety that had caused girder accidents at least two times earlier.

The crane involved in the latest accident expired after being in use for at least 26 years. The arrestees said it still can comfortably lift up to 50 tonnes.

Its capacity to carry heavy objects decreases when it is used sideways, according to them.

This caused the man, Rakib Hossain, 23, who was operating the crane, to lose control and the crane tilted on its side while putting the 70-tonne concrete box girder on a trailer.

The crane’s designated operator, 25-year-old Al Amin Hossain Hridoy, was instructing him through signals from outside the construction vehicle when the accident occurred, the RAB said.

The other arrestees are traffic men Md Rubel, 28, and Afroz Miah, 50, of the Four Brothers Guard Service providing security at the construction site, IFS CON Bangladesh Limited owner Iftekhar Hossain, 39, whose company provided heavy equipment for the project, Head of Operations Azharul Islam Mithu, 45, Tofazzal Hossain Tushar, 42, the marketing manager of Build Trade Company, which provided cranes to the project, and administrative officials Ruhul Amin Mridha, 33, and Manzurul Islam, 29.

Traffic men Rubel and Afroz were supposed to control traffic under Zulfikar’s supervision, but they did not perform their duty. Their employer Four Brothers Guard Service has no licence, Moin said and added Rubel and Afroz were sent to work without training.

The company did not use any signal operator or counter load for the crane, the RAB said.

“Those, who should have checked the crane’s capacity, didn’t do it.”

Usually the work to move girders is done at night. But the company started to move the girders at day time. And they had limited workforce as it was the National Mourning Day, a public holiday.

Chinese officials of the contractor were also nearby, but the RAB did not arrest them. “We’ve arrested those who initially appeared to be responsible for the accident,” Moin said.

Al Amin was the main operator of the crane, said Commander Khandaker Al Moin, spokesperson for the RAB. He had a licence to operate light vehicles, not heavy vehicles.

In 2016, Al Amin trained to operate cranes. Since then, he worked on two to three construction projects before he began on the BRT project in May of this year. His helper, Rakib, joined the project three months ago and had no training to operate cranes.

On the day of the accident, Al Amin and Rakib began operating the crane around 2:00am, Commander Al Moin said. They finished laying down one girder and then attempted to pick up another that was heavier than the crane’s lifting capacity, lost control of it and dropped it on the car.

RAB said the BRT project contractor firm China Gezhouba Group Corporation got its equipment from a local company known as IFS CON. IFS CON did not have any large cranes and so procured the one involved in the accident from the Build Trade Company.

Moin said Build Trade’s Tushar and Ruhul were arrested for neglecting their duty - appointment of operator and checking the fitness of the crane.

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