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ILO to help fire victims’ families

September 13, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Sept 13: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called upon the government to take action at the national level to protect workers’ health and safety and announced various short- and medium-term measures itself, following the worst industrial tragedy in Karachi in which hundreds of employees of a garment factory were killed in a fire.

A statement issued by the ILO office here on Thursday said the organisation was ready to support the victims’ families and strengthen the Sindh Labour Department to prevent such incidents in future.

The ILO said it was making a quick need assessment of the families of the victims to determine their income losses and ways to help them to stand on their feet again; extend skill training scholarships to 500 members of those families and link them with decent jobs; extend technical assistance on rapid training of labour inspectors in Sindh on promoting fire safety at workplace; and through labour inspection help enterprises to put in place a safe work culture.

In medium-term measures, the ILO will help build institutional capacity of the provincial department to improve efficiency of labour inspection. It will advocate preparation of a code of conduct on occupational safety and health by employers and workers, partnering with the media.

ILO Country Director Francesco d’Ovidio and his team will visit the Sindh Labour Department on Friday to discuss the organisation’s support for the families of the victims and to help improve inspection to prevent such incidents. Mr d’Ovidio will also meet representatives of the Employers’ Federation of Pakistan.

The factory fire highlighted lack of workplace safety measures, and more needed to be done to protect workers’ safety and health, the ILO said.

Underlining the need for concrete action to prevent such tragedies, it said: “We are shocked by the news we heard about the deaths of workers in the factory fire. Protection of workers’ safety and health is a fundamental human right. We need to reinforce measures to protect workers’ lives from hazards at the workplace. We would like to call for national action to improve the protection of all workers,” Seiji Machida, head of Safe Work Programme of the ILO, said in a statement.

The ILO also referred to the fire accident in a shoe factory in Lahore the same day killing at least 25 people and said tragedies like these were all too common in Asia and the Pacific region.

The Safe Work Programme official said: “I would like to call for strengthening of legal and other supporting measures to improve workplace safety and health in all countries, particularly in developing countries. We call for action to ensure that decent work must be safe work for all.”