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Spidermen add shine sans protection

The ‘city of concretes’ houses hundreds of high-rises, which are home to plush offices and glittering malls.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2011 01:12 IST
Deevakar Anand

The ‘city of concretes’ houses hundreds of high-rises, which are home to plush offices and glittering malls. But these sky-scrapers owe their shine to 1,000-odd spidermen, who risk their lives by dangling onto ropes on these steep structures to give them a fresh look. Even in their own parlance, these labourers are addressed by this name.

Vijoy Mondal (name changed), 22, a migrant labourer, is one such worker. He has been adding sheen to some of the tallest buildings for three years. “I worked as a cook in my hometown. During my initial days in the city, I used to work as a daily wage labourer. It was after sometime that I became a spiderman,” he said.

Notably, these men are not provided training and protection under the Haryana Building and Other Construction Workers (BCOW) Act, which addresses the needs of construction workers.

AS Deswal, deputy director, Industrial Safety & Health, Gurgaon, has admitted gaps in the safety mechanism. He expressed helplessness in ensuring the safety of these spidermen as façade cleaning does not come under the Act. “Since a spiderman's service is a post-construction activity, there is no law to deal with safety violations in this regard,” he said.

According to the Act, safety violations by builders entail a fine of a meagre Rs 2,000.

Mondal dreads the time when he fell from a 15-storyed building. His 18-year-old colleague, Tanveer (name changed), shows his broken helmet and says his managers haven't replaced it despite repeated requests.

In many areas, spidermen don't have special sunglasses. Moreover, no safety nets are installed to protect them.
Tanveer recalls an incident when his friend fell while cleaning the façade of a four-storeyed building.

Meanwhile, building maintenance managers maintain that safety measures exist in form of the poly-nylon rope, which can bear a load of up to 1.5 tonne. Besides, there is a separate rope with block-stopper, which a spiderman can use during emergency.

Anil Soni, executive director at A2Z Services, a maintenance agency involved in façade cleaning, said spidermen working for his agency undergo a proper training. However, he added that many times, the safety concern is not given a priority and there are mishaps.

He attributes such safety violations to vendors and building owners.