Lack of safety, health facilities haunt shipyard workers

More than half of the total workers interviewed said they were injured at their workplace during the last one year.

Published: 10th December 2019 08:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th December 2019 08:48 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Lack of safety equipment, inadequate health facilities, overtime working hours, and lack of accountability in case of accidents continue to haunt workers at the Alang-Sosiya ship-breaking yard in Gujarat, shows an independent study ‘Working, Living, Occupational Health and Safety Conditions in Ship Breaking Yards in AlangSosiya, Gujarat, India’.

Fatal accidents continue to happen due to the hazardous nature of the ship-breaking work, which involves cutting open chunks of steel and iron using blow-torches, according to the study which has relied on both primary and secondary sources of information. 

More than half of the total workers interviewed said they were injured at their workplace during the last one year. Of them, 39 per cent had not received any medical support from their plot owners. 

Data shows there have been at least 522 deaths of workers since 1983 till 2018, pointing to the flouting of safety norms in the industry. There have been 52 deaths between 2014 till last year. 

Data sought for information on number of prosecutions for deaths between 2014-2018 in RTI was not provided so far, said the report. 

On Monday, Rajya Sabha passed the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 which aims to protect workers’ interest.

Despite the existence of rules, there was major flouting of safety measures, the interviewed workers said in the study. Inquiries in case of accident-related deaths and injuries were not made public, said the study. 

Of the 103 interviewed workers during the course of the study, 36 per cent said they were dissatisfaction with the quality of safety equipment, 16 per cent did not receive any safety equipment and 18 per cent said the safety equipment were manageable. Thirty per cent people said the safety equipment was in good quality. Due to intense heat and humidity, workers also reported difficulties in using the ‘substandard protective gears’. 

There is a need to create a database on migrant workers who can benefit under the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act and an urgent need to educate them of their labour rights, said Geetanjoy Sahu, associate professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences who has authored the study. 

Data collected from workers showed 16 per cent of workers were from Gujarat. Over 35 per cent of the workers were from Uttar Pradesh, followed by 19 per cent from Bihar. 

The Gujarat government should conduct a study to understand the long-term impact of shipbreaking activities, the report said.   

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