ILO calls for improved safety campaigns targeting transport, logistics and emergency-service providers

It is understood that mislabelled chemicals boxes that may have triggered the explosion at a container depot in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Over 40 people were killed after a fire broke out near the port city on the morning of 4 June.

Officials have reported that containers of hydrogen peroxide had been incorrectly labelled by a depot operator, leading firefighters to extinguish flames with water instead of foam, setting off an explosive reaction.

The depot’s owner has yet to comment on the allegations.

Purnachandra Mutsuddi, an assistant director with the local firefighting service, told the AFP news agency that as soon as the firefighters entered the depot on Saturday they unwittingly doused the hydrogen peroxide with water, setting off an explosive reaction that sent “a container flying more than 500 feet”.

“There are some rules to keep hydrogen peroxide. Had we known this, we would never throw water. We would never take our vehicle inside the depot,” he said.

ILO calls for safety improvements

“This incident illustrates the urgent need to ensure proper handling and storage of chemicals, proper training for storage facility staff at awareness and operational levels, and effective crowd control during an emergency incident,” the International Labour Organization (ILO), said in a statement.

It underscores the importance of an effective industrial and enterprise safety framework; vigilant enforcement; and a training system to ensure a structured approach to “mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery” to all hazards.

Moving forward, multiple actions are required across various of areas, including a review of regulations and enforcement in the transport and logistics sector, it said.

ILO also called for improved safety campaigns targeting transport, logistics and emergency-service providers.

It recalled the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy when a garment factory in an eight-story commercial building collapsed in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka District, saying that since then, it has continued to work closely with the Government of Bangladesh, employers’ and workers’ organisations and development partners to improve working conditions in all industries.

The proper governmental monitoring of industries to ensure that industrial and accidental risks are properly understood, addressed and prevented is essential to improving safe working conditions in Bangladesh, ILO spelled out.

“ILO and the broader UN system in Bangladesh hopes that this tragic accident will drive all parties involved to apply renewed vigour in addressing the safety deficits in workplaces across the country and we extend our assistance to continue to build safer Bangladesh for all,” the statement said.