The accidental deaths are continued in the ship breaking yards which is damaging the image of the industry as before. A number of 215 workers died in last 15 years in the accidents on different ship breaking yards. If we see the figures of deaths in different years, we find that 111 workers died in last eight years only, according to the available information of YPSA. There are four workers died in 2020 sofar and 20 workers died in 2019 and more than 40 severely injured. In 2018, 18 ship-breakers died and 12 others were injured in 17 workplace accidents.
Recent deaths at ship-breaking yards
Two shipyard workers died after being exposed to toxic gas while dismantling an old ship at Sitakunda upazila of Chattogram this afternoon. The incident happened around 12:30pm at the shipyard of Khawaja Steel, a sister concern of KSRM, reported by Sitakunda Police Station. The deceased were identified as Niranjan Das, 30, and Suman Das, 35, both from Jhalakathi. The workers were drilling holes on the back of the ship in order to remove toxic gas which had formed inside.
On 4th February, 2020, one worker, Kiron Tripura, died in Ziri subeder ship breaking yard while the victim was hit by an iron plate in the yard.
On 10th February, 2020, another worker, Md. Mizanur Rahman died in SN corporation ship breaking yard also by hit of heavy iron piece.
According to the available information of YPSA, there were 15 workers died in 2017, 17 workers died in 2016, 16 died in 2015, 9 died in 2014, 11 died in 2013, 21 died in 2012, 7 died in 2011, 11 died in 2010, 25 died in 2009, 14 died in 2008, 8 died in 2007, 10 died in 2006, 8 died in 2005.
Causes of casualties
After analyzing yard accidents over the years, it has been found that workers mostly die from explosions or after coming into contact with toxic materials from ships.
Accidents, including inhaling dangerous substances like carbon monoxide or falling from dizzying heights with no safety harness, are major causes of workplace injuries in the ship-breaking industry.
Other causes of workplace casualties include workers getting crushed by falling steel beams and heavy plates, as well as cylinder, boiler, and generator explosions and electrical shocks.
Strict enforcement of law is must
Muhammad Ali Shahin, senior program coordinator of YPSA, kept emphasizing the fact that the rising workplace casualties would jeopardize the image of ship-breaking yards at home and abroad. YPSA’s demand is zero accident and zero death in the ship breaking yards.
“The alarming rise in accidents points to the poor occupational safety standards at ship-breaking yards. The ship-yards must emerge as green ship-yards and an action plan involving all the stakeholders is a must to strictly enforce the laws here,” Shahin said, who has been working in the ship-breaking sector for almost 18 years.
Ship-breaking, a major occupational problem
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), ship-breaking has become a major occupational and environmental health problem in the world.
It is amongst the most dangerous of occupations, with unacceptably high levels of fatalities, injuries, and work-related diseases.
Ship-breaking is a difficult process due to the structural complexity of ships, and generates many environmental, safety, and health hazards.
It is done largely by the private sector and is rarely subject to safety controls or inspection.
It also gives limited access to health services and adequate housing, welfare, and sanitary facilities further exacerbating the plight of workers.