mid-day editorial: Let's ensure safety first for labourers too

In what has become a depressingly familiar occurance, a group of construction labourers working on a building in Borivli had a narrow brush with death as the bamboo scaffolding gave way under their feet. One of them plunged to his death, while six others were seriously injured. The eighth worker, Mohammad Shamim, had a miraculous escape as he managed to grab on to the parapet just in time.

This scenario is familiar simply because there have been so many deaths at construction sites that these workers have just become statistics in the making of projects and infrastructure all across the city. In a front-page report in this paper yesterday, Shamim said they had all been working without a safety harness since the project’s beginning.

Walking around barefoot, climbing on precarious scaffolding with no safety measures, not even a net below, is a common scene everywhere. It is, in fact, so prevalent that we do not even spare a thought for those risking life and limb to build infrastructure. Some may spare a sympathetic look for these workers, but that is about all they elicit.

Labourers come from all parts of the country to take Mumbai and its infrastructure to new heights; the least we can do for them is to ensure basic safety measures. Workers have to be in safety harness on scaffolding — this is non-negotiable. Hard hats must be worn by everyone who enters the construction area. Nobody should be allowed to go in without one. Basic medical kits, at least a first aid box, should be on site. All emergency numbers should be with a liaison or contact person, in case of any serious emergency. It is time builders ensure strict safety or be fined heavily if they do not fulfil minimum requirements. Strict guidelines should be drawn up and then implemented by the government, and the labour force should get insurance as well.

The labourers need a strong voice to lobby and support them. They are valued members in the making of different city projects and not mere numbers that they are tragically often taken for.

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