Experts say Pune builders must accept responsibility for safety lapses
While police are known to book the labour contractors, and in rare cases the builders, for these incidents which claim lives due to the lack of safety gear or safety measurements, the laws on safety measures for workers and penalties for non-compliance remain poorly executed.Updated: Nov 16, 2017 15:16 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
On Sunday, November 12, a two-and-a-half year old girl died after she fell from the terrace balcony of her seventh floor residence in Shanti Nagar Society near Gangadham in Kondhwa. The protective glass railing was removed for undertaking some construction work when the incident happened.
According to the police, this tragic accident at the Surana Mutha Bhansali Developers’ residential complex happened because the safety railing was removed to install a ‘break-free’ replacement. According to other residents of the building, the work had been left unfinished since four days prior to the incident.
Over the past three months, nearly a dozen construction workers have died in various accidents at construction sites across the city.
While police are known to book the labour contractors, and in rare cases the builders, for these incidents which claim lives due to the lack of safety gear or safety measurements, the laws on safety measures for workers and penalties for non-compliance remain poorly executed.
In addition, the builders who initiate the projects, market and sell their properties, seem to shrug off their responsibility saying that it is the responsibility of the labour contractors who bring in the labour workers. But isn’t it the builders who appoint these labour contractors in the first place? Why don’t they insist on safety measures at that stage itself?
Anuj Puri, chairman, Anarock Property Consultants, said that the spate of construction-related tragedies that has beset the industry in recent times is largely a product of negligence and cost-cutting on the part of contractors. “In a handful of cases, the fault lies more in the carelessness of construction workers who, despite having being given all the safety gear, have not exercised due caution,” he added.
Ranjit Naiknavare, secretary, CREDAI and director, Naiknavare Constructions, admitted that things were not satisfactory on the safety front.
“Most of the builders outsource construction work from the beginning and then it really becomes the responsibility of the contractors. Unfortunately, there is no system in place for mapping their background and for safety check. There is no consolidated data available and we do check the past records of the contractors but there is no audit of safety checks, which is a challenge for developers. Also, there is no certification agency to check if the contractor is good,” said Naiknavare.
But why can’t developers insist on a checklist of safety measures such as safety nets, harnesses, etc from the contractors while appointing them? Is it because the cost would go up.
According to Naiknavare, when new buildings and flats are given to customers, the developers and the owners are in a transition phase wherein societies are not formed, systems are not in place and safety measures are yet to be reinforced. Many-a-time, customers are persistent and want possession of their flat because they want to make their own furniture or save on rentals.
So even if the builder gives the permission, they also need a PMC clearance which takes a long time.
“Once we give possession to people, we have a standard disclaimer for the occupier which states that the building may or may not have a completion certificate and that you are not allowed to stay in the flat but whatever changes/ mishaps/ accidents that happen during their work is their responsibility,” said Naiknavare.
As per the rules, builders are not supposed to give the possession of a flat until there is a completion certificate. However, this may take two to three months and then there is pressure from customers, who want to move into their new homes. “So we allow them to make changes, get the furniture done, anticipating the certificate,” Naiknavare added
Satish Magar, managing director, Magarpatta Township Development and Construction Company Ltd, said that his company puts high importance on safety during the construction phase.
“ We maintain a strict regime over this clause while working on sites,” said Magar.
He explained that whenever his staff takes up any maintenance work, the area is closed to people. He added that he use of safety nets, wired belt and harness, which is mandated by law, is routinely adhered to at his company.
“We have to differentiate between what an accident is and what is a case of negligence,” said Magar, adding that it is not always that builders who are at fault.
LAWS ON SAFETY AT CONSTRUCTION SITES
Section 40(2)(o) of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 reads: “The keeping of safety nets, safety sheets and safety belts where the special nature or the circumstances of work render them necessary for the safety of the workers.”
Section 44 of the act puts the onus of constant supervision on the employer of the labourers. In conclusion, the act defines the penalty for not following: “The provisions of any rules made under section 40” can face a fine of ₹200, prison time up to three months, both, or ₹100 for each day after first conviction.”
Other such laws include Factories Act, 1948, Contract Labour (regulation and abolition) Act, 1970, Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, Industrial Employment (standing orders) Act, 1946, Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by certain Establishments) Amendment Act, 2014, etc.
First Published: Nov 15, 2017 22:52 IST