DIFE too weak to ensure workplace safety across industrial sectors

Dhaka,  Thu,  24 August 2017
Published : 01 Dec 2016, 21:51:27

DIFE too weak to ensure workplace safety across industrial sectors

Monira Munni

Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) is yet to begin its activities in full-swing due to reasons, including inadequate manpower and logistic support, informed sources said.

As a result, its activities remain limited only to apparel industry even more than two and half years after the upgradation of the state inspection entity, they said.

The key objectives of upgrading the Labour Inspection Directorate to a full-fledged department were to make it more effective in dealing with workplace safety and workers' rights.

The necessity of bringing all the industrial units under inspection was considered following a series of industrial accidents especially the fire incidents, including a packaging factory at Gazipur, cigarette factory at Ashulia and a chemical factory at Gazipur.

Meanwhile, some 161 workers were killed and more than 200 injured in different types of accidents at the ship-breaking yards in Chittagong in last nine years - mainly due to absence of safety measures, industry insiders claimed.

Inspections have been conducted only in the readymade garment sector out of more than 45 industrial sectors like jute, ship breaking, sugar, pharmaceutical, chemical, tannery, poultry, hotel, plastic, brick field, tea, bidi and match industry.

"Since the upgradation, we could concentrate only on RMG factories after the Tazreen Fashion fire incident and Rana Plaza building collapse that drew huge local and international attention on workplace safety," Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of DIFE, told the FE.  

"Now we want to move beyond the RMG sector as improvements are taking place there," he said, adding that other industrial units are yet to see such supervision.

Fire, electrical and structural integrity were assessed in some 3,800 factories under three initiatives while inspectors were appointed and provided them with necessary training to develop their capacity, he added.

A publicly accessible database was also established and launched that contains information of garment factories including address, number of workers, types of products, post inspection reports, online licensing system and hotline to receive workers' complain, he explained.

Post-inspection remediation is also going on in those units, he noted.

Labour leaders and experts, however, criticised the poor monitoring by DIFE for slow remediation work in the inspected garment factories under the national initiative.

The DIFE is set to bring non-readymade garment (RMG) factories under its inspection programme mainly to ensure compliance and fire safety at workplaces, Mr Ahmed said.

It has prioritised some sectors, including boiler, chemical, plastic, rubber and the factories that use explosives and flammable materials, for inspection by a third party, he added.

The DIFE has prepared a list of some 26,000 registered factories including the RMG, he said, adding that out of those, the sectors mentioned would be inspected initially.

The DIFE on September 18 also directed its inspectors to include boiler, chemical, plastic, rubber factories and those that use furnace and explosive materials in its regular inspection activities along with RMG factories, DIFE sources said.

Regarding inspection of other sectors, the DIFE chief said that with only 264 inspectors, it is not possible to bring all the industrial sectors under inspection activities.

"We need at least 2,500 inspectors to cover all the factories and establishments," he noted.

With the rapid industrialization, there would be much use of chemical and explosive materials in industrial units, Centre for Policy Dialogue additional research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said.

Along with RMG, other sectors must be brought under the inspection and monitoring as there were fire incidents in non-RMG factories, he said, recommending the government to allocate adequate fund for enhancing the capacity of DIFE.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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