A significant portion of the workforce in various sectors in the country is exposed to risky working environments. In 2022, a total of 7.4 million workers were employed in the country, with 32% of them working in environments prone to dust, noise, and vibration. Additionally, 30% of the workers were engaged in work amid severe cold and hot conditions. Approximately 2.41 million workers have encountered accidents in such environments.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) Labor Force Survey 2022, health experts warn that prolonged exposure to high noise levels or dust and chemicals at workplaces can lead to various physical and mental health complications. Dr. Lelin Choudhury, Director of Health and Hope Specialized Hospital, mentions, “Working in high noise can reduce hearing capacity, and there is a risk of permanent hearing loss. Moreover, continuous exposure to high noise creates a kind of stress in the brain, affecting a person’s behavior.”
In work environments with such risks, the incidence of insomnia, high blood pressure, heart diseases, and respiratory issues is significantly higher, according to health experts.
BBS data reveals that 16% of workers in hazardous workplaces are engaged with various types of risky machinery. Approximately 7% of workers work with chemical explosives, and 5.4% work in environments with fire and gas. About 4% of them work below ground level or at elevated heights. Of the workers employed in risky professions in the country, 87% are male, and the remaining 13% are female.
International Labor Organization (ILO) Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen points out that many workers in sectors such as footwear, shipbreaking, construction sites, fisheries, and agriculture are working without adequate safety measures. Working with machinery without proper training is also risky. In these cases, awareness creation and appropriate preventive measures can be ensured through public-private partnerships. He emphasizes the importance of addressing occupational hazards, maternal protection, and health safety across all sectors to ensure comprehensive damage prevention.
Economists note that despite the recent economic growth in the country, the creation of suitable working environments has not kept pace. Consequently, informal and hazardous workplaces have increased. The lack of government oversight in these areas makes the working environment unfavorable. Prolonged work in risky environments has resulted in health risks for workers, leading to various complex diseases. Dr. Debapriyo Bhattacharya, Fellow at the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), states, “In recent times, despite the economic growth, the contribution of the industry to technological advancement has increased. However, this has happened through the exploitation of informal labor. Without proper training, working with machinery is also risky. Attention needs to be paid to these informal workplaces. There should be monitoring here because there is low wages, low productivity, and no government oversight.”
The survey indicates that at the national level in 2022, nearly 3% of workers have been victims of accidents. Among them, 62% experienced accidents at least once, 25% twice, and 8% thrice. Nearly 2% of workers encountered accidents five to nine times within a year.