21-year-old killed as car plunges over 30 feet into construction pit in Karachi
KARACHI: A 21-year-old man died and another was injured after their out-of-control vehicle rammed through ‘the protective barrier’ of an under-construction high-rise in the Dalmiya area of Karachi Thursday.
The accident took place between 4:30am and 5am on Thursday morning, according to the Aziz Bhatti police station. The construction site is located in Shanti Nagar.
The deceased has been identified as 21-year-old Kamran s/o Abdul Qayyum. The second person in the vehicle, 28-year-old Munawwar, was injured and taken to the Aga Khan Hospital by his family.
Visuals from the scene of the accident showed a Toyota Vitz hatchback lying at the bottom of the plot that had been excavated to lay the foundation of a high-rise.
The plot of land is surrounded on all sides with a make-shift fence made of equidistant poles tied together with green cloth. One of the videos shows a gaping hole in the fence through which the car seemingly drove through and fell almost 40 feet into the excavated pit.
Last month, five members of a family died after their car fell in a construction pit in the upscale Bahria Town Karachi housing society.
The accident in BTK, one of Karachi’s most upscale residential projects, was followed by claims that there was no diversion so that motorists could take an alternate route instead of heading towards the ditch. Several residents said that the ditch was not well-lit and that there was no adequate signage to warn motorists.
While in the Dalmiya instance, a boundary fence was in place around the excavated plot, it was connected with a piece of cloth and not fabricated metal or tin sheets as required.
Construction sites in Karachi are notorious for being lax when it comes to safety measures. The problem becomes acute considering the many construction and worksites across the city including dug up roads, infrastructure projects and building construction sites.
There is a dearth of authentic published information with reference to the number of injuries and fatalities in construction sector of Pakistan, write Hassan Zahid, Dr Mahmood Khalid Qamar and Dr Houda Javed in their research paper “Slips, Trips and Falls (STFs) as contributors of injuries and fatalities in construction industries of Lahore - Pakistan”.
They note that the lack of a safe regulatory body, paucity of safety knowledge and awareness, incognizance with foremost safety practices, deficiency of safety dedication by contractors and owners and insufficiency of safety training are the main problems. “In view of the fact that there is absence of safety statistics, construction projects have never been analyzed in relation to the strengths and weaknesses of safe practices versus safe performance.”
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 2.2 million people die every year due to work-related accidents or illness, more than 270 million workers are injured and an estimated 160 million suffer work-related illness.
Most of the deaths at construction sites occur due to fall from height, according to EU OSHA. National Safety Council, a US-based no-profit, collates data pertaining to workplace injuries in the US. It’s ‘Injury Facts’ noted that in 2020, 857 people were killed and 44,240 people were injured in work zone crashes. Of the 857 fatalities, 479 were in construction zones, 314 were in work zones of unknown type, 56 were in maintenance zones and eight were in a utility zone.
In New York, the city council recently passed a legislation increasing fines against employers responsible for a worker’s death or injury.
Laws & regulation
The Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) is the regulatory body in the province when it comes to construction site safety.
Chapter eight of the Karachi Building & Town Planning Regulations 2002 (amended in 2012) identifies the various safety measures that are mandatory at construction sites.
It specifies the following for undertaking any construction work at a site.
- Site hoardings: satisfactory barriers so as not endanger public
- Use of public streets: streets not to be used without explicit permission of authority concerned
- Obstruction to be lit & marked: building materials, scaffolding, excavation to be clearly visible, including using red flags of reflectorized material during daytime
- Fencing of excavation: height at least 4 feet.
- Removal of obstruction after completion of work: within seven days
- Dangerous obstruction: removal of any such equipment deemed dangerous by authority concerned
- Stability of adjacent buildings: no construction work can take place if it effects stability of adjacent structures
- Filing exvacations: No pit, ditch can be left empty beyond the validity of construction period
- Adequate safety measures: in terms of harnesses for workers; construction equipment kept secure and far from edge of excavation; temporary rails, scaffolding, barriers at end of slabs, openings for buildings greater than 20 ft in height
- Supervision: construction supervisor, engineer or architect to be on site
The rules go on and list necessary precautions for working at height, in ditches, on slopes and scaffolding, including details about guard rails.
According to one official of the SBCA, the law states that the plot can be sealed in case of any violation. The official said that the authority has the right to revoke the architect and engineers license can be revoked.
The official, who did not wish to be named, said that while the construction site was fenced, they did not use fabricated sheet to put maximum protection in to place to avoid such an accident. There should have also been signage and a barrier to clearly identify that the plot was a construction site, the official added.
One individual associated with a decade-long association with the construction and real estate sector said that the health and safety department of the SBCA has been known in the past to temporarily seal sites. “But I have never heard of construction sites being officially penalized for any such lapses,” he added.
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