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Preventing occupational injuries in the construction sector: the LabourNet experience.

Brinda MK; Rinehart RD
Asian Pac Newsl Occup Health Saf 2008 Apr; 15(1):11-14
This article gives a general overview of the construction industry in India with a specific focus on the barriers affecting effective implementation of occupational health and safety (OSH) systems. The article summarizes the experience of LabourNet, a workforce development organization based in Bangalore, India, which is helping to generate a demand for OSH improvements in the industry and preventing occupational injuries. The construction industry in India-Construction is one of the most hazardous industries worldwide and typically ranks highest in terms of the total number of work-related fatalities each year. However, data are not available for India, because there are no reliable systems in place to track and count work-related fatalities. The situation in India is complicated, because construction workers generally are not employed by formal contractors, even on the largest and most visible projects. They are typically migrant workers hired off the record by informal piece rate workers, or maistries. On medium-sized and large projects, the maistries are usually paid a lump sum or a piece rate by 'formal sector' contractors to get specific jobs done (e.g. bar bending, carpentry work, masonry, painting). The maistries in turn use their connections in rural villages to hire the migrant labourers to complete the tasks. This may include entire families, as a large number of women are involved in menial jobs at most construction worksites. Families sometimes live on the worksites in makeshift housing (either tin sheds or tarpaulin shacks) with their children. Depending on the size of projects, several independent maistries and their work crews can be on a site at any given time, some for only one or two days - others for much longer periods. The transient nature of this work makes it difficult to obtain safe and secure work environments at construction sites. Compounding the issue, project engineers, maistries and the unskilled workers have very little knowledge of OSH hazards and risks. Labourers can frequently be observed in unprotected trenches over five feet deep, even though it is well documented worldwide that trench cave-ins kill thousands of workers every year. It is also common to see people working at heights with no protection against falling. Falls are the leading cause of construction-related fatalities in most, if not all, countries. Nonfatal injuries, such as cuts and lacerations, eye punctures, and back injuries are common among construction workers in all countries, but are likely exacerbated in India by the fact that many migrant workers are not aware of or do not have access to common tools and equipment to get jobs done safely and efficiently. For example, one does not have to travel to many worksites to see examples of scrap material being used as makeshift tools. While workers can be seen wearing shoes and hardhats on some larger projects, they are generally not available or used by migrant labourers on the majority of projects.
Construction; Safety-measures; Safety-practices; Health-protection; Construction-industry; Demographic-characteristics; Sociological-factors; Accident-prevention; Injuries; Preventive-medicine; Traumatic-injuries; Hazards; Morbidity-rates; Mortality-rates; Construction-workers; Workers; Work-environment; Work-practices; Humans; Men; Women; Children
Publication Date
Document Type
Fiscal Year
Issue of Publication
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Construction; Manufacturing
Source Name
Asian - Pacific Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety
Page last reviewed: April 1, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division