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4 February 2008

High Court directs government on construction safety enforcement agency

The High Court has directed the government to explain within four weeks why it’s failure to establish a government agency to enforce the Bangladesh National Building Construction Code, 2006 – which became law in November 2006 - is not in breach of the law. The order was made on 29 January.

The High Court has also directed the government to submit a statement to the court setting out what steps it has taken to secure the safety of construction workers since the Code  became law in November 2006.

The order followed a public interest petition filed by the Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST).

The petition argued that the failure by the Government to establish a functioning agency contributed to the deaths of at least 50 construction workers which were reported in national newspapers in 2007. The actual number of death of workers in the construction sector is likely to have been much higher.

Repon Chowdhury, Executive Director of OSHE said:

“We welcome the court’s decision. The construction sector is one of the most hazardous sectors in Bangladesh. Our research indicates that nearly a third of all workplace deaths involve construction workers. The government has no excuse not to set up a body to enforce the Building Code”

Soma Islam, Deputy Director (Advocacy and Public Interest Litigation) of Blast said:

“The Code clearly requires the government to establish a new body or designate an existing agency to enforce its legal provisions - but 14 months on from the Code’s enactment, there is no enforcing body. There is simply no point in having a law unless the State takes action to enforce it.”

The Building Code was enacted in 2006 for the purpose of establishing minimum standards for the design, construction and maintenance of all buildings within Bangladesh.

Although the Code has a wide remit, a significant section deals with workplace safety provisions and explicitly lays down what owners must do to protect the health and safety of those working on construction sites. This includes, for example, the need to take measures to protect workers falling from heights, workers coming into contact with electrical wires and, masonry falling from heights onto workers. It also includes obligations to undertake demolition of buildings in a safe manner.

The High Court order was directed towards the secretaries of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Labour and Manpower, Environment and Forest, the Chairman of Rajdhani Unnayan Katripakkha (RAJUK) and REHAB, the developers organisation.

Barrister Tanjib ul Alam, assisted by advocate Amatul Karim and advocate Toufiqul Islam (both BLAST lawyers) took part in the hearing on behalf of the petitioners.

To see the petition and other documents relating to this litigation, click here






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Page last updated on February 4, 2008