Sanitation Workers: A Frontier Fighter for Building a Healthy City [Case Study of Rajshahi City, Bangladesh]


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  • CEO, PEACE(Research & Consultancy) WASH Focal , Tiller(Spatial Planning Consultancy) Specialist : #Climate Resilient Inclusive Smart City (CRISC) Planning and Development #Citywide Inclusive Sanitation Planning and Development
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Sanitation Workers: A Frontier Fighter for Building a Healthy City [Case Study of Rajshahi City, Bangladesh]

Sanitation workers have played crucial role for any city in keeping the environment sound and healthy, but their work most often
goes unnoticed and underappreciated. In Rajshahi city, located in north-western Bangladesh, sanitation workers face a range of challenges and difficulties in carrying out their important work locally. Many sanitation workers in Rajshahi city are employed in a "Muster Role" by the local government (Rajshahi City Corporation), but they often work long hours for low wages with little job security or benefits. They are responsible for collecting and disposing of waste from homes, businesses, and public spaces, often in hazardous and unsanitary conditions. One of the major challenges faced by sanitation workers in Rajshahi city is the lack of adequate equipment and protective gear. Many workers do not have access to gloves, masks, or other protective clothing, which puts them at risk of injury or illness from exposure
to hazardous materials. Here, most of the sanitation workers are both formal and informal haven’t used safety gears and don’t follow any occupational health and safety guidelines during their work due to their lack of awareness and access
to safety gear (e.g., PPE).

“I never got any OHS training or PPE in my whole job life. But I have learned operating operate a vacuum tug from my driver and
self-common sense. We work with an empty hand and touch fecal sludge because of the nature of my work. It’s so dirty work, and most people behave with us with an untouched attitude. My home is far from working area and I hide my profession and
work nature from my family members and neighbors. Our payment is so poor and its daily 440 taka ($4) and monthly 13,200 taka ($
130) only. How can we survive with our family and manage our daily expenses? There are
no permanent job facilities, OHS gear, or insurance. Actually, we are always unnoticed, and our rights are always ignored by city authorities and dwellers. We look forward to government and authorities for our basic rights and job

___Shamsul Islam (Experiences of 14 years in the vacuum tanker emptying profession, RCC)
During focus group discussion with most of the sanitation workers both manual and mechanical, they won't use PPE due to inaccessible, uncomfortableness and lack of awareness. I think foreign aids and INGOs should support OHS training and PPE to the sanitation worker frequently and develop capacity of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) authority. Moreover, PPE should be prepared considering weather in our area and promote them regular counseling. In addition, in Rajshahi city, sanitation workers often face discrimination and stigma from other members of the community. Their work is seen as dirty and unskilled, and they are often subjected to verbal abuse and harassment. So, its most important to raising awareness of city dwellers to ensure dignity and OHS
of sanitation works.

"I am 63 years old and I have already passed 28 years in my sanitation job. I should to leave this risky job. Though, my financial and health condition is so poor. But in this condition, I have to continue work for my livelihood. Unfortunately, we don't have any health and life insurance and permanent job facility. We just used once and through like waste. If we accident during work, we won't get any health compensation and nobody take responsibility to support us. It's our generation-to-generation problem. We are suffering extreme poverty due to lack of works. We are unemployed day by day. What would be our future generations fate? We keep clean environment in the city,
but what we get? Unfortunately, we get negligence, lowest payment, and no permanent job. Where occupational health and safety supports are dream for us."

___Nitto Ranjan Hela (Experiencesof 28 years in the manual emptying profession, RCC)

During the focus group discussion with the sanitation worker and KII with the conservatory officer, it's found that sanitation workers job not get any formal recognition by city authorities with considering permanent job facilities. They get payments like pay per work monthly and daily basis paid 440 Taka ($4.4) for 7-8 hours. It's called "No work, no payment" during sick or absence due to injury. It's comparatively one third payment compared to formal sanitation worker (paid daily $8-$12 with others job facilities). In addition, about 98%
sanitation workers are informal called it Muster role and deprived from their basic labor’s rights and decent job facilities. Despite these challenges, many sanitation workers in Rajshahi city, feel pride in their work and are committed to keeping the city clean and healthy. They work tirelessly day in and day out, often in extreme weather conditions, to ensure that waste is collected and disposed of safely and efficiently. To address the challenges faced by sanitation workers in Rajshahi city, there is a need for greater investment in infrastructure and equipment, as well as increased awareness and respect for the important work that they do. By providing sanitation workers
with the tools and support that they need, we can ensure that they are able to carry out their work safely and effectively, and help to build a cleaner and healthier city for all. Along with this, the Rajshahi city authority should ensure decent job facilities and standard wages align with national wage standard grade.
Best regards
Woakimul Islam Shakil

Technical Focal, CWIS(DPHE, Bangladesh),Tiller.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Cell: +8801744976369

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