Sanitation at construction sites in Thimphu to improve

Sanitation around construction sites in Thimphu is expected to improve. The Department of Labour says they are working on improving the condition of toilets at construction sites by strictly monitoring and collaborating with relevant stakeholders. Currently, most toilets at construction sites are not built as mandated by the Occupational Health and Safety regulations.

The Regulation on Occupational Health and Safety for the Construction Industry, 2022 mandates construction sites to have a separate pour-flush toilet and washing facilities for males and females. Construction sites need to have a toilet with a separate bathroom for every six users according to the regulation.

However, temporary toilets made out of tin roofs and plywood are a common sight in most construction sites in Thimphu, located just a few meters from the workers’ camps.

These toilets, which are usually squat toilets commonly known as Indian toilets, are often seen as deprived of proper flush and septic facilities.

This, according to the Bhutan Toilet Organisation, is concerning in terms of the health and sanitation of the workers.

“From our side, we have provided various examples of how contractors can create decent, safe, and clean toilets for their workers. We even have very affordable technologies that they can adopt. However, what’s not working right now is the lack of stringent regulations that push construction owners to provide proper toilets for their workers,” said Chablop Passang Tshering, executive director of Bhutan Toilet Organisation.

He also added that relevant stakeholders must work on ensuring strict enforcement of the regulations.

While the Department of Labor has not yet imposed fines for improper toilet facilities so far, they have issued improvement notices to around seven construction sites in Thimphu this year.

According to the department, contractors claim that constructing proper toilets is a waste of their expenditure and they lack space for it reasoning that most construction works are expected to finish within a short period.

Meanwhile, the Construction Association of Bhutan says that it will advocate for proper toilets at construction sites among the contractors.

We need to emphasise to our contractors the importance of maintaining sanitary conditions at their work sites, as this has significant long-term implications for public health. With my background in public health, I understand the critical role this plays. So, I think sharing this knowledge with the Construction Association of Bhutan will not only address public health concerns but also represent a valuable long-term investment in the construction industry,” said Sonam Wangchuk, the executive director of the Construction Association of Bhutan.

He added that the association plans to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders to address and improve the situation.

According to the Regulation on Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare, 2022, contractors are liable to pay a penalty of Nu 11,250 for non-compliance on the first instance, Nu 22,550 on the second, and Nu 45,000 on the subsequent instances.

There are close to 2,000 construction sites across the country as of now.

Tashi Dekar

Edited by Phub Gyem

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