In Bangladesh the term ‘industrial accident’ is often a complete misnomer. The repression of unions and raw exploitation of workers mean that there is very limited ability of workers or unions to ensure safe workplaces. In countries like Australia unions have been the prime motive force for the introduction of Occupational Health and Safety legislation; importantly, unions are vital to ensure such legislation actually means something in the workplace.

Businesses see health and safety as a cost. If they can get away with it they will seek to have the lowest level of workplace safety commensurate with their need to maintain production. If the cost of injuring workers is lower to the company than maintaining a safe workplace, the company will take the risk with workers’ lives.

Ensuring that unions are weak is critical to ensuring that workers do not organise to ensure safe workplaces. Unionised, unsafe workplaces are a major contributor to Bangladesh’s extremely low cost garment production sector. Unfortunately none of this is rhetorical or hypothetical.