• Nepal Government Company Reg No. 276092/078/079

Lack of safety measures at construction sites causing accidents and taking lives

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Stakeholders stress the need to implement safety standards on all construction sites.

On July 14 last year, Engineer Satish Goit and driver Radhakrishna Thapa Magar went missing when the barrier of the Melamchi drinking water project’s gate No.17 tunnel burst. Site engineer Shekhar Khanal and Site Assistant Prem Bahadur Tamang were injured in the incident. The water was tested in the tunnel only a week before the incident.

On December 27 of the same year, two engineers died at the Solukhola Dudhkoshi Hydropower Project in Solukhumbu. Engineers Subash Raj Regmi and Arjun Thapa were killed when a pipe exploded while they were testing water for power generation after completing the tunnel work. Mohammed Rayin, project manager of Hydro Mechanical Company, was seriously injured in the incident.

Exactly a month later, one worker died while another was injured in an accident inside the tunnel at Solukhola Dudhkoshi Hydropower Project. The extension of an excavator carrying a pipe snapped inside the tunnel and the carrying bucket with workers inside it fell into the tunnel.

The deceased have been identified as Rakesh Chaudhary and the injured was Angat Rai.

On January 23, a Bolero jeep was hit by an excavator driven by the operator of Kancharam construction company in Siddhicharan Municipality-3 of Okhaldhunga. Three people were killed while three others were injured in the accident. An investigation found out that the excavator was being operated in the absence of the on-site supervisor.

These are only some representative incidents.

Injuries and deaths of workers and technicians in various mining industry sites and construction sectors in the country are becoming more and more frequent. Most accidents are a result of compromises on safety issues at project sites, stakeholders say.

The government formed a committee under the coordination of Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Chiranjeevi Chataut to investigate the January 23 incident at Solukhola Dudhkoshi Hydropower Project. The committee has already conducted an on-site investigation and submitted a report to the government but the report has not been made public yet.

Committee Coordinator Chataut said that the technicians had not anticipated the possibility of an accident at the hydel project site.

“The accident occurred during testing and the technicians had no idea that the pipe was going to explode,” he said. “It seems like they tested the tunnel by closing off both sides and applying high pressure, which the pipe could not hold.”

“It was a huge explosion with debris weighing around five tons flying up in the air,” said Chatuat. “A small leak was observed during the inspection of the 36mm thick and 2.5metres wide pipe. But the accident took place when the technicians were not anticipating any mishaps and so were not taking safety measures.”

Chairman of the Nepal Engineering Council Dilli Raman Niraula said that safety and security issues have always been neglected in large-scale infrastructure construction projects. Immediately after last year’s Melamchi incident, the council formed a task force. The task force said the operation of any project work must be conducted under the surveillance of occupational health and safety officers.

Niraula said that he has written to concerned ministries, departments and agencies to raise the issue of construction companies not meeting safety standards at construction sites.

“In infrastructure construction sites, all companies should have a health and safety officer. We had issued a circular citing the need to implement safety standards on site before construction work begins, but nobody paid heed to it,” said Niraula.

According to him, the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation has formed an investigation committee to look into the incident.

“Nobody should lose their life due to a lack of safety at the worksite,” he said. “Hopefully, the authorities will look into these accidents with seriousness.”

The council said that only those companies who fulfill the requirement of safety should be allowed to get the license. Stakeholders are of the view that the practice of working at construction sites without following basic safety measures, like wearing a helmet, should be stopped immediately. If the safety of workers is not given first priority, such accidents will continue to happen, say stakeholders.


Source: 

Kumbha Raj Rai , Kantipur Publications.

Published at: February 07.2022