Workers say that they can’t quit working at construction sites even after being vulnerable to lung diseases.
Bangalore: Bhuneshwar, has been working in road construction for a decade. Standing at the road construction site in Indiranagar, he said lung diseases don’t bother him and he will continue to work as long as he can. “I didn’t get any other job because of the pandemic and this job pays me well so I am not concerned about any disease and want to focus on my work,” he said.
Several workers in road construction sites at Indiranagar, Kengeri and Mysore Road are seen working with cement, silica and rubber coal, without any precautions. Dr K. Vinod, a pulmonologist in Bangalore, said that the road construction sites use materials like silica which are harmful for the lungs and these silica or coal dust emissions may cause chronic lung diseases. “Forget about residents and commuters, the workers are the worst affected. They suffer occupational lung diseases which come as a part of their work and can’t even avoid that,” he added.
Laxmi, a worker in Kengeri, said that she was afraid of working there as her sisters suffered from lung diseases. “My sister is diagnosed with tuberculosis and I am working here so that I can afford her treatment costs,” said Lakshmi. In addition, she feared that she might also be infected by Covid-19 as the cases were rising.
Experts said that excessive and continuous exposure to dust may lead to severe lung diseases, even death. Dr. K. Vinod said that road construction workers can’t avoid inhaling the dust and silica and long exposure to silica can lead to respiratory illnesses. “These days, our state has been experiencing the second-wave of Covid-19 and these workers might get infected as they don’t even wear masks,” added the doctor.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment have issued codes for the occupational safety of construction workers which say that they should take proper precautions while working in such sites. Dr K. Vinod advised them to wear masks and gloves while working to avoid dust allergies, silicosis etc. However, Bhuneshwar said that wearing gloves or masks causes discomfort while working The codes also mention that the site engineer or the supervisor should take care about working conditions. However, the construction workers in Indiranagar said that their site engineer was not present there to take care of anything.
Workers said that they have been working in this field for years and haven’t been affected by any such disease. Ravi, another worker, said, “I have been in this field for over 12 years and have never experienced any lung diseases due to my work. I have a family to feed and can’t be scared to work here as this is my only source of income.”
A study by International Journal of Medicine and public health suggests that 21.3 per cent workers complained of respiratory diseases which may be due to increased indoor pollution, exposure to dust, paint and allergens than outdoor civil works. Most complaints from the workers were about cough and breathing difficulties which were due to the lack of personal protective measures, the study shows.