Pakistan: PFBWW calls for improved OHS practices as six die in worksite accident at the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project

On 24th December 2014, an accident at the Neelam Jhelum Hydro Power Project under the authority of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in the Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Muzzafarabad killed a Chinese engineer and five Pakistani workers and also resulted in numerous injuries. The provincial Government has ordered an inquiry.

The Neelam Jhelum Hydropower Project is being constructed by a consortium of two Chinese multinational construction companies---CGGC (China Gezhouba Group Corporation) and CMEC (China Machinery Engineering Corporation). The project is to be completed in 2016. The Awami Labour Union (ALU) affiliated to the Pakistan Federation of Building and Woodworkers (PFBWW), one of BWI affiliates in Pakistan is recognized as the collective bargaining agent for the site. The ALU has about 1,800 members out of an estimated work-force of 2,700 workers.

The accident has once again brought to the forefront the poor industrial safety standards in Pakistan, making fatal accidents a common occurrence. This unfortunately is the case throughout South Asia, where, particularly in India and Bangladesh, where more than 2,000 workers have been killed in last three years alone.

Aslam Adil, General Secretary of the PFBBW mourned the loss of lives at the Neelum Jhelum Hydropower Project and called for improved occupational health and safety practices. He stated, “The accident could have been prevented if the management had taken adequate safety and health measures.” He continued, “The PFBWW has sent representatives to the site to conduct our own independent, fact-finding investigation as well as talk to the members of the deceased. Along with the local union – ALU, we shall ensure justice prevails and ensure that all steps are put into place to prevent such recurrence in the future.”