An exploding gas cylinder at the Arafin Enterprise shipbreaking yard in Sitakunda, Bangladesh, resulted in the death of four workers after inhaling carbon dioxide on 3 April. Another three workers are hospitalized with injuries.
According to the information provided by IndustriALL Bangladesh Council of trade unions, the plant owner closed the gates after the accident. People from the local community gathered in front of the entrance and had to break down the gate in order to rescue the injured workers and take them to the hospital.
The employer later claimed that injured workers were not part of the employees. Instead they were hired externally by an electric cable trader to dismantle the cables at the ship beached a month ago for scrapping. The employer also said the workers were equipped with the safety gear, but did not use it.
According to various reports from January 2008 to June 2013, there were 78 deaths and 119 injuries recorded in the Bangladesh shipbreaking sector. However there is no official occupation and health and safety data available. The Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation-OSHE estimates the real figures might be up to 20 times higher.
Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL Global Union Director for shipbuilding and shipbreaking sector, who has researched the situation of shipbreaking workers in South Asia says:
“We deplore the victims of this terrible accident and mourn together with their families and friends. Our affiliates have been putting a lot of efforts into organizing the shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh to protect the workers’ lives from hazardous OHS conditions. However, the employers are busting the union activities. The government must immediately initiate the tripartite dialogue and negotiations about practical measures aimed to protect human lives at the yards, as well as fundamental workers’ rights.”