Uneven standards, patchy implementation

The death of a 63-year-old resident of Mugalivakkam on Monday night has laid bare the continuing negligence towards ensuring safety standards while executing infrastructure projects in city and suburbs.

In a city with a population of around 70 lakh, various agencies including Tangedco, Chennai Corporation, Highways Department, and Chennai Metrowater carry out works to provide basic infrastructure services. Other than fluorescent tapes, some barricades and boards, safety standards are hardly followed during the works.

At Metrowater, while there are specifications in tenders about adhering to safety standards at work, they are not strictly followed at many places. Though it has proposed metal barricades at work sites on the lines of Metro Rail project, it has not been implemented as it would lead to cost escalation.

Steel barricades of one metre height that would be anchored to the ground have been planned for works that are being taken up on arterial roads. “But, safety is often compromised while reducing project cost. Also, there are practical problems in using metal barricading on narrow interior roads where work space is less. But, safety must not be compromised in such places too,” said a former official.

Chennai Corporation places barricades on roads during road re-laying work and along trenches dug up for stormwater drains to prevent accidents. Usually, tender conditions include safety equipment, insurance and creche for children of women workers.

Officials of Tangedco, another utility agency that needs frequent road cuts for laying or repairing cables, say their trenches are not as deep as those of Metrowater. Also the underground cables that are laid are energised only after getting a completion certificate. A Tangedco official said safety classes are being organised for the officials and contractors involved in electricity maintenance works to prevent accidents. 

Former engineers of the Highways department say that only mega projects follow even a small portion of safety guidelines. Though tender specifications say that contractors have to follow safety guidelines, the project estimate does not include costs for ensuring safety at work site, they said.

The U.S. follows a standard where even a small negligence on the part of the highways department can mean compensation to the aggrieved party. “In the U.S., in one instance when a bridge over a river was being painted, because of a malfunctioning warning light, a car overshot and fell into the water and the man died. His widow claimed and won damages. However, in Tamil Nadu, when a van full of children fell into a lake, the case was closed as driver’s negligence. The Department was not hauled u[ for lack of a protective wall along the portion that abuts the road,” said a safety expert.

(With Inputs from K. Lakshmi, R. Srikanth, Aloysius Xavier Lopez and Deepa H. Ramakrishnan)

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 2:22:24 AM |

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