11 workers killed in Rio Olympics projects – BWI calls for independent investigation

A total of 11 workers have died in the construction for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro over a period of three years, according to information gathered by members of the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) and state labour inspectors. 

“This is the result of a lack of respect for workers’ lives. It is shameful that employers and organizers behind the Olympics are putting profits over workers’ safety and health. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee to make sure that no one should have to die in the name of the games,” said Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of the BWI. 

The deadliest project related to the Rio Olympics is the extension of the Metro Line in Rio. Two workers have also died in the construction of the Olympic Park where most of the games will take place. Fatal accidents have also been reported in the roadwork related to the Olympic sites and the construction of two museums being built for the Olympics. 

According to official records, one construction worker died by being run over by a truck, another by falling from a ladder, one from being whipped by a compressed air hose and one from electric shock. Other accidents include workers being buried alive and killed in vehicles turning over. Apart from these deaths many accidents leading to serious injury have also been reported.  The Brazilian inspectors have further reported slave-like working conditions in the construction of the building that will be used as media accommodation during the Olympics in 2016 and also of in the Athletes Village. 

”A thorough, transparent and independent investigation by experienced labour inspectors along with trade unions must be conducted to prevent further tragedies and more importantly to put into place a mechanism to prevent more accidents from happening. The International Olympic Committee and local organizers cannot let the death of workers pass under the radar”, said Ambet Yuson. 

Building workers have been mobilizing to improve the working conditions through demonstrations and strikes were organized by trade unions in Rio de Janeiro. 

“The companies should increase the dialogue with trade unions in order to prevent other accidents” said Nilson Duarte Costa, president of BWI affiliate SITRAICP. 

In addition, the BWI have proposed a Health and Safety Occupational Protocol with guidelines to prevent accidents based in the experience of World Cup discussed in the Tripartite Regional Standing Committee on Conditions and Work Environment in the Construction Industry of Rio de Janeiro.

In comparison 14 people died in the construction for the World Cup in Brazil 2014. At least 60 workers died in the building for the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Further, 6 workers died in the preparations for the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008, one before London Olympics 2012 and one the Vancouver Olympics 2010. 

The preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea saw the death of 2 workers were killed in 2015, one of long work hours and the other of a fall further emphasising that IOC should be more responsible in its events. BWI has also been pressuring FIFA to take pro-active role in recognising workers and human rights around its World Cups. 

”Every workers who dies or get injured on his or her job is one too many. The International Olympic Committee has a really poor record on protecting workers’ rights and safety and this should be a wake-up call that it is time to take real action” said Ambet Yuson.