YK Poudel 

Many workers are still exposed to hazardous situations that endanger their health and safety resulting in accidents, illnesses, and fatalities even, according to a labour department report.

Of the 22 workplace accidents reported to the Department of Labour (DoL) last year, 36.48 percent of fatal accidents were from the construction industry and manufacturing sectors.

The findings of DoL’s assessment showed accidents such as “trapped by something collapsing or overturning” at 41.7 percent followed by “contact with or by moving machinery” at 25 percent, and contact with electricity or electrical discharge at 16.7 percent.

Last year, 1,565 workplaces—37.6 percent of the service sector and 17.3 percent in the construction sector—were assessed for Occupational Health and Safety (OHS).

Of the 82 enterprises assessed, 31 enterprises were awarded the excellent OHS practice award, 17 enterprises were given the good OHS practice award, and 33 enterprises lacked satisfactory OHS practices at their workplaces.

A total of 382 improvement notices and 43 penalty memos were issued from 2021 to 2022.

To address these issues, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment increased the adoption of occupational safety and health practices at the construction sites this year.

Engineer with the Labour Protection Division, Sonam Geley Dorjee, said that stringent implementation of regulations on OHS has led to an increased fine collection. “We provide notice before the penalty is imposed. If the situation does not improve, we penalise them according to the OHS and Labour and Employment Act, 2007.”

Construction sites, he said, are inspected in areas of OHS policy, availability of first aid medicines, electrical safety measures, PPE, issuance of PPE, installing safety nets, and barricading worksites.

About Nu 1.25 million were collected in fines in the current financial year.

Currently, the personal protective equipment (PPE) in the market is reportedly “not up to the standards” according to the ongoing foreign workers monitoring process.

As per section 78 of the regulation on OHS, PPE has to conform to American National Standards, Bureau of Indian Standards or standards certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health or any standards developed by the government. “An employer contravening section 78 shall be liable to pay fines as prescribed in the OHS Regulation.”

The department is advocating for safety gear in the construction sector.  The department created awareness of the Labour and Employment Act, 2007 for 1,419 participants, and awareness of OHS for 1,146 participants.

A total of 382 participants were trained on OHS.