Safety first is a motto that’s never found favour with most infrastructure development agencies in the country. However, a debacle here and there often elicits some knee-jerk reaction that creates ripples for a few days, before things return to the normalcy of negligence and lethargy. Since, the girder collapse on the Eastern Freeway at Wadala — that killed one labourer and injured eight others — occurred only about a week ago, while visiting five major construction sites in the city to assess the safety situation of workers MiD DAY had expected heightened preparedness. Here’s what we found:
Eastern Freeway alignment project near Shanti Nagar at Wadala and Sewri (East)
When on Tuesday afternoon we visited the site at a distance of 400-500 metres from Wadala, Shanti Nagar — where Simplex Infrastructures Limited is the contractor —, we found seven-eight workers toiling away on a pier. Only one of them was wearing a helmet, while the remaining neither had headgear nor a harness. Even a labourer who was working while standing at the edge of the column had no safety buckle.
Later, we also went to the Sewri (East) area and saw that some of the workers were without safety helmets. A few operatives working on the edge of the bridge carriageway at a height of 20-25 feet were also without helmets and harness.
A spokesperson from Simplex Infrastructures Limited said, “Simplex Infrastructures Ltd follows the highest safety norms for each of its project sites. Even workers on sub-contractors’ rolls are required to adhere to the strictest safety norms including wearing safety gear at all times when working at the project site. This safety gear is issued to all workers at periodic intervals, with the last issue being on 11th of June 2012. A few of the workers who did not adhere to the safety guidelines have been put under suspension.
Simplex evolves its safety procedures and guidelines for each project in consultation with the overseeing agency and its EPMC.”
The Jacob Circle-Wadala monorail alignment project
On Wednesday afternoon MiD DAY visited this monorail construction site, a project of MMRDA, where L&T is the contractor.
Again, we found many labourers carrying on with their business without basic protective gear.
We also went over to the under-construction monorail pier a few meters away from Wadia hospital. Here, for a change, we found five-six workers toiling away, all of them wearing safety helmets. Even those working at the edge of the pier were equipped with harness and headgear.
Speaking to MiD DAY MMRDA joint project director Dilip Kawatkar said, “MMRDA has always instructed all its contractors that the safety of workers at the construction site should be taken care of. If at all the contractors working at MMRDA sites are not providing safety gear to labourers, we would see to it that the situation is rectified at the earliest.”
Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar alignment project near Western Express Highway
When we showed up at the under-construction metro station area at Andheri (East) near WEH, we found that the workers at the station area were wearing helmets.
We also visited the stretch of metro rail construction work where girders have been launched. In the area where metro tracks will be laid, we found all the labourers equipped with helmets, but many working at the rim of the carriageway were without any safety harness.
An official from Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) said, “The highest safety measures as per international standards are being adhered to at all levels at our site locations. The contracts with all the vendors/contractors address the safety issues. Competent international inspecting agencies including Bureau Veritas and Moody International Ltd have been deployed by the company for the purpose. Periodic inspections and regular training are also being extended. We also obtain expert advice of MMRDA.”
After visiting the public infrastructure project, which MMRDA is overseeing, MiD DAY on Thursday decided to visit some private under-construction building sites.
Private under-construction building near upcoming metro rail car depot adjacent to Four Bungalows
While several labourers at this 20-storey under-construction structure were sporting safety helmets and protective boots, there were others who were devoid of hard hats.
We also spotted some operatives working at a height of 20-storeys lacking harness, thus putting them at risk.
Kandivli Link road
MiD DAY also checked out an under-construction three-storey building in Kandivli area and while the labourers perched on top of the structure were sporting safety helmets and protective boots, they were devoid of safety harness.