Occupational health and safety are a concern in workplaces across the country. This year, between July and November, the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources penalised 37 employers and 87 employees for the violation of occupational health and safety regulations in Thimphu alone. The Ministry says the level of occupational safety in the country is concerning.
The Ministry of Labour resumed Occupational Health and Safety inspections in workplaces after almost a two years hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Since the inspections resumed, the ministry has been regularly monitoring the safety of workplaces. Those violating the occupational health and safety regulations are given improvement notices and penalised if they fail to follow the notice.
According to the labour ministry, cases of people violating regulations are still prevalent. The ministry recorded a compensation of more than one million Ngultrum from the employers due to work-related injuries to their employees.
“If you look at the situation in the country, there are many studies done in the context of Occupational Health and Safety in Bhutan. And it looks like there are a lot of things that need to be improved if you look at the current situations,” said Phuntsho Dendup, Senior Labour Officer of the Department of Labour.
Besides regular inspections, the labour ministry has provided awareness to more than 1,000 individuals and trained about 380 on occupational health and safety. The ministry has even made it mandatory for foreign labourers to undergo orientation programs before entering the country.
Despite this, practising Occupational Health and safety in workplaces has still not caught on in workplaces. The ministry said that factors such as the lack of safety culture and the mindset of the people among others make the implementation challenges.
“Most employers think that Personal Protective Gears are expensive. What they don’t understand is the money that goes into buying the gears is very less compared to the compensation they have to pay if something happens to their workers,” said Sonam Galey Dorjee, the Engineer of the Dept of Labour under the Labour Ministry.
“We come across some people who say that using PPEs is uncomfortable. Some of the workers say that the helmets are heavy and they take them off. They also say that using eye protectors and earmuffs gets in the way when they work. That’s why we make sure we monitor them every day,” said Bhim Raj Pradhan, the CEO of Design and Build Private Limited.
“We do see some people not wearing personal protective gear. When this happens, our supervisors come and remind us to use the PPEs. We understand that the PPEs are for our safety. That’s why we use them,” said Chatra Pati Pradhan, an employee of the Build Bhutan Project.
The Labour Ministry further added that the implementation of Occupational health and safety is challenged by the limited access to experts in the field.
“One of the main challenges the department of labour faces is that we only have one expert in Occupational Health and Safety. So, we have limited resources when it comes to the availability of personnel with the technical capacity in the field of Occupational Health and Safety,” said Sonam Galey Dorjee, the Engineer of the Dept of Labour under the Labour Ministry.
Besides inspections and making the wearing of personal protective gear mandatory, the ministry plans to further advance and enhance the level of occupational safety in the country in the future.
Karma Samten Wangda
Edited by Sonam Pem