An official of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) said that construction sites and workers were not safe because the safety at construction sites is a new issue in Bhutan. According to MoLHR, more than 34, 000 foreign workers are involved with various trades in the construction sector. Some 18 workers were compensated for deaths and two for temporary disability in 2014.
While the Department of Labour (DoL) under MoLHR monitors work sites through various types of inspections in order to prevent, protect and improve working conditions and working environment of the construction sector, there is “general resistance” from employers who develop a project in bounded time and are not willing to invest on safety equipment, he admitted.
The official, who doesn’t want to be named, also condemned workers for being unaware of risks involved in not taking care of their own safety. “Some people express uneasiness in using safety equipments,” he said. Most workers are from India, where the absence of safety precautions sometimes becomes an issue. The official said another problem is that a wide area is covered by limited human resources. Also, both employers and employees have limited knowledge on the working environment.
The monitoring by the ministry includes routine visits to construction sites which typically happens once a year irregularly to look at things in general to help secure compliance with laws and regulations. Such visits, he explained, aim to anticipate and prevent problems by informing both employers and workers about the rules, advising how to comply them and, if necessary, securing compliance with the regulations by enforcement.
The official pointed the department implemented follow-ups, focusing on problems and contraventions of the laws that were identified in previous visits to determine the extent to which enterprises had responded to the outcome of the earlier routine visit. The official also said that the special inspections on specific issues such as usage of personal protective equipments and overtime payment were held several times a year, sometimes in response to specific compliants from workers.
In case either employers or workers do not comply with regulations DoL advices, informs and educates them on legal rights and obligations under the law. In case of non-compliance warning is issued with an improvement notice giving 30 days to rectify the contravention when there will be another inspection carried out and if the regulations are still not complied or rectified then the Department issues a penalty memo, followed by the legal action. As per the public notification relayed in the media, the employees will be penalized for not using the safety equipments offered by the employer.