Fatal accidents rise at Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards

At least five shipbreaking workers have been killed and five more severely injured in a series of fatal accidents at the beaching yards in Bangladesh in only one month, according to data provided by NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

At the end of May a worker died at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard when he fell from great heights, and less than a week later five workers were struck by falling steel plates at the same yard. One worker died on the spot and another in a hospital, while the three remaining workers were severely injured.

At the beginning of June a worker was crushed by a falling steel plate at Laskar Shipbreaking, while on June 19, two workers fell victim to a cylinder blast at Bhatiary Steel shipbreaking yard, one of which died in a hospital three days later, while the other suffers from severe burn wounds in his face and upper body. A few days later, a worker suffered severe injuries from a fall at Kabir Steel.

“This horrific series of accidents shows that occupational health and safety measures are absent,” Muhammed Ali Shahin, the Platform’s local coordinator, said.

“We are witnessing the same accidents again and again: workers are not equipped with safety harnesses and fall to their death. Others are crushed under heavy steel parts as a consequence of the dangerous gravity method by which cut steel sections are simply dropped into the sea and on the beach. Gas cylinders cannot be handled safely on the beach and explosions cause death and terrible burn wounds. As long as ships are scrapped on the beaches, workers will continue to die.”

The series of fatal accidents have sparked local resistance.

On 10 June, the Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Forum together with the Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies (BILS) organised a human chain in Sitakunda, the shipbreaking area, to protest the recent deaths.

The Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Forum also handed over a letter to the president of the Bangladesh Shipbreakers Association (BSBA) demanding proper investigation and the payment of compensation owed to the families of dead workers and those workers who suffered from injuries, according to NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

The Platform said that it has called on the Government of Bangladesh to investigate these accidents and to sanction yards with regular fatal and severe accidents, such as Kabir Steel and Seiko Steel.

The Platform also demanded that European ship owners stop selling their end-of-life vessels to the beaching yards of Bangladesh as “it is not acceptable to turn a blind eye on the precarious situation for the sake of maximum profit – European ship owners are fully aware of the dire conditions in Chittagong and more sustainable alternatives to the beaching method exist.”

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