(City): 8th anniversary of Baldia factory fire incident: Call to implement safety laws

Karachi:Trade union leaders, workers representatives and officials at Sindh Health Department on Thursday underlined the need for implementation of the Sindh Occupational Safety and Health Act and measures be taken to prevent industrial accidents.

They were speaking at a seminar on the occasion of 8th Anniversary of Baldia Factory Fire Incident “Assessing Safety and Health Hazards in Pakistan” organized by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at Karachi Press Club.

The speakers deplored that no lesson has been learned after the worst ever factory fire incident on 11th September 2012 at Karachi.

Senior trade union leader Habibuddin Junaidi said provincial government has taken some measures and Sindh took a lead in making a separate law for Occupational Safety and Health, other provinces followed and made similar laws. He admitted that despite passage of a record number of labour laws in Sindh, there is a lack of implementation of these laws.

Junaidi deplored that 260 workers had lost lives in Ali Enterprise fire incident, but still accountability is not made to responsible persons. Some commissions were made but no responsibility has been fixed so far. He said millions of workers are not registered with any social security institution in the country.

Karamat Ali, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) said that if health and safety is ensured at the unit level and laws are implemented the industrial accidents may be reduced by 90 percent.

“We have to pledge that not a single worker’s life is put in danger in the future,” he remarked. He said in this regard major responsibility lies on employers who have to ensure provision of safety and health facilities at their factory. Ali Ashraf Naqvi, a former Joint Director of Sindh Labour Department said that health and safety sector is neglected in the industries.

Referring to the Baldia Factory Fire incident he said it has taught us a lesson for provision of safety and health facilities at industries. After the Ali Enterprise incident a Joint Action Plan was made, which has resulted in a slight improvement in legislation.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has appreciated the OSH law of Sindh and asked the other provinces to make similar separate law on health and safety. He said Sindh took the lead in making a separate law in consultation with all stakeholders. Now the rules of Sindh OSH Act have been made and notified. Naqvi said the provincial labour department would soon issue notification of appointment of Safety and Health Inspectors in Sindh.

Ms. Farhat Perveen, Executive Director of NOW Communities said that a lot of workers lose their lives in mines every year in many areas of Pakistan. Many cases are not recorded. If you contact with the Labour department, you would learn that they don’t have any data about industrial accidents or deaths of workers. She hoped no worker would lose their lives when we would meet next year.

Nasir Mansoor, Secretary General of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) said that such incidents had happened in Bangladesh and other countries, but serious efforts were made elsewhere to reduce such incidents, but we have not done anything in Pakistan. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed and recently made public, which is an attempt to divert the attention.

The JIT report has given an impression that it was a terrorist act. But in fact the factory was illegal and owner did not make any effort to provide safety to workers. Extortion has been a normal practice in industrial areas, he added. Social auditing by Rina Italian inspection company was not accepting its responsibility and the German court has admitted that there was no such law there to try a case which happened in Pakistan.

Makhdoom Taufeeq, Joint Director (Safety and Health) Government of Sindh said he appeared in Supreme Court of Pakistan in Silicosis case. The court ordered all the provinces and federal government to make similar law of Sindh Occupational Safety and Health Act.

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