Rana Plaza and liability of regulators

Topics: Occupational safety and health, Law, Government Pages: 6 (1827 words) Published: September 21, 2013


VOL 20 NO 157 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Friday, May 24 2013
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http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/index.php?ref=MjBfMDVfMjRfMTNfMV85Ml8xNzA0MTY= Rana Plaza and liability of regulators
The regulatory authority says in its defense that it does not have enough manpower to enforce the building regulations. But is there any instance of taking action against an offender anywhere in the country? The department has 45 inspectors and other staffer and officials but could not use the absolute power to shut down any of the “business organizations” as per of any preventive measures writes M S Siddiqui
Over and above the constitutional obligations, Bangladesh has commitments to workers' rights, having ratified several ILO conventions, while its laws guarantee health and safety and other working conditions. But deaths and injuries of workers remain unacceptably high, with little or no prevention. 

The government is amending the Labour Law to meet the requirements for retention of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) facility in the USA market. What the Bangladesh government and the employers are doing on safety compliance is intended more to satisfy the overseas garment buyers than to ensure safety of the employees' lives. 

The recent series of incidents exposed the lack of proper law implementation. The issues of hazardous and outdated installations, ineffective machinery and inadequate safety tools and Personal Protective Equipment at workplace also came to the fore. 

The Labour Law-2006 is the most significant legislation dealing with occupational health and safety in establishments in Bangladesh. The law has a wider scope of applying to all 'establishments'. It defines an establishment as a: "shop, commercial establishment, industrial establishment or premises on which workers are employed for industrial work." The definition of a 'factory' is limited to the premises of a factory and, therefore, it appears to exclude business activities that take place outside its premises. Agricultural farms that employ more than 10 workers, rubber, coffee and tea estates, construction sites and road, river and railway transport services come under the purview of the definition, though 'ocean-going vessels' are specifically excluded. It also includes airlines, docks, wharfs or jetties, mine, quarry, gas-field, oil-field and other establishments. There are different kinds of offices coming under the purview of the definition of 'commercial establishments'-an administrative department of a factory or any industrial or commercial undertaking, which employs workers for the commercial or industrial purpose and some other business organisations like insurance companies, banks, clubs, hotels, restaurants, cinemas and theatres. 

A much-preferred approach of the law would be its applicability to all establishments, other than a specified list of exemptions. The scope of the legislation should be much clearer. The "establishments" should be defined as "any trade or business or other activity providing employment or contracts for services, and include domestic premises in relation to any domestic staff working there." Workers are often sent to undertake hazardous work outside the perimeter as part of their duties. So it makes no sense that the law will apply only to activities inside an establishment's premises.

Interestingly, some kinds of other premises are specifically exempted from the law's purview, like offices of or under the government, although it is not clear whether this exemption includes autonomous bodies or public corporations, the exhibition shops, shops or stalls in any public exhibition or show which deal with retail trade. We have many instances that accidents have taken place at exhibitions and educational institutions and other establishments.

Taking into account...
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