Indian mechanic’s death prompts concern over safety for migrant workers

Indian mechanic’s death prompts concern over safety for migrant workers
February 08 14:18 2017

The death of an Indian mechanic in an accident at his workplace has prompted concern over safety for migrant workers and calls for a thorough investigation.

Maheshwaran Mariappan, 27, was caught under a dump truck that he was repairing on Maamigili, Alif Dhaalu Atoll on Wednesday. The vehicle fell on his head and he died within minutes.

A Sri Lankan national was arrested over the death, but the police declined to reveal charges against him.

Mariappan was working on an airport development project with Villa Shipping and Trading, which owns the Maamigili domestic airport.

His body has been flown back to India.

Ahmed Shifau, Mariappan’s supervisor, said he was at the site but did not see the accident take place.

“I turned around at the sound of screaming to see him on floor. We immediately took him to the hospital,” he said.

“He was working with truck. I did not see how it happened. I have seen sometimes when they do work like these they do it in a hurry without proper safety measure. However I don’t know what happened this time,” he said.

Shifau added that he was not responsible for safety measures at the worksite.

The Indian embassy said it did not have statistics at hand on migrant worker deaths and injuries from accidents in the workplace. The Bangladeshi embassy said it does not keep records.

Some 130,000 documented and 60,000 undocumented foreigners work in the Maldives.

Ahmed Tholal, a former member of the watchdog human rights commission, said safety measures are “usually ignored” for migrant workers.

“When accidents like this is reported we do not see a strong investigation that determines the causes or identifies who has to take responsibility. As in this case, most of the time it is the immigrants worker who has to take responsibilities for the employers shortcomings in providing safety,” he said.

An official at the Indian embassy has called for a thorough investigation.

“It is very unfortunate that this incident happened. The employer needs to take measures to ensure accidents do not happen at the workplace in the future,” the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. “The company should take every measure to ensure that safety of workers are not compromised.”

In July, a Bangladeshi man was killed while unloading cargo from a boat in Malé. In October a construction worker was injured when he fell from the seventh floor of a building he was working on.

Correction: February 8, 2017
An earlier version of this article said that the Indian embassy did not keep records of deaths and injuries from accidents in the workplace. This is incorrect.