DoR: By the end of this financial year, every person employed by the Department of Roads (DoR) will have to wear a uniform, reflective jacket and helmet when at work.

This was decided during the departments’ quarterly meeting early this month. All the regional offices of the department were reminded of the requirement with an office order on January 19.

The office order stated that every person who leaves for work in the morning is expected to return home in good heath. “However, it is observed that we’ve not taken seriously about the safety at workplace,” the order stated. “The consequences are huge both on workers and employers.”

Chief engineer of the maintenance division, Tshering Wangdi B, said that one of the main reasons for providing reflective jackets and making workers wear it compulsorily is because of the increase in vehicles.

“In the 80s and early 90s road workers did not have to wear it because then the number of vehicles plying were less,” he said. “But today it is important to make sure drivers see a worker working on the road,”

He added that although there are no reported cases of vehicles hitting road workers, it was better to prevent it as early as possible.

More than a decade ago when road workers, initially employed under the Public Works Division (PWD), received rations from the World Food Program (WFP), they were also provided with uniforms, helmets and gumboots.

Although the government continued to provide them with gumboots and safety helmets after WFP phased out sometime in 2004, uniforms could not be provided.

The cost of buying jackets would be borne by the works and human settlement ministry and each region will procure on its own. “The cost implication will be very minimal,” the chief engineer said.

Currently there are about 2,000 regular road workers with DoR. During the months of January-March the department employs about 3,000 more workers on a temporary basis because that is when road maintenance is carried out.

Temporary employees would also be provided with the safety jackets and other equipment. “We’ll not penalise them for not complying but after certain instances labourers might be asked to leave the job,” Tshering Wangdi B said, adding that it might take sometime to make it a habit among the workers.

By Nirmala Pokhrel