For the workers in Pakistan’s one and only ship breaking industry located in Gadani, workplace health and safety measures are part of a worker’s basic rights. They demanded this during a protest held October 30th at the Karachi Press Club.
One of Pakistan’s worst industrial accidents
On the 1st of November, the local as well as international media reported one of Pakistan’s worst industrial accidents in history. There were at least thirteen workers who lost their lives, and seventy suffered from injuries due to a sequence of explosions in Gadani. The explosion happened during work conducted in an oil tanker ship being taken apart at the ship breaking yard.
Nasir Mansoor, the secretary general from the National Trade Union Federation, reached the site right away after the explosion. He mentioned that more than a hundred workers were still inside the ship breaking yard trapped and surrounded by fire. He added that many of the workers injured or killed were outside the oil tanker.
According to some witnesses, the fire brigades and also the rescue teams were not able to get to the yard on time. The rescue operations were carried out mainly by Edhi Foundation.
Mansoor said that they have contacted Hasil Bizenjo, the current Minister for Ports and Shipping, and the Navy as well as Karachi Port Trust ships and helicopters extinguished the fire.
The workers told The News that the ship was hauled up at breaking yard no. 54 which is owned by Ghafoor.
Many of those injured workers were transferred to the Civil Hospital Karachi.
Gadani is about 60 km south-west from Karachi. It is part of Balochistan’s Labela district on a 10 km long stretch of coast. It is the biggest ship breaking yard worldwide after India’s Alang and Bangladesh’s Chittagong.
Lack of safety measures
The labour leaders indicated that there are approximately 20,000 workers in this industry, where workers’ deaths had become frequent due to the lack of safety measures.
The Institute of Labour Education and Research as well as the Human Rights Commission demanded that the government should make sure that proper health and safety facilities are available to the workers.
In sum, companies should work with health and safety specialists to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment for workers while preventing injuries and deaths.