At least four workers were buried alive and 16 others were wounded when the roof of a garments factory collapsed on Friday in Lahore’s Nishtar Colony. The factory was poorly-built and was not properly maintained. At least six persons including the factory manager have been detained. The owner of the factory fled the scene before the police arrived. The police have registered a criminal case against the factory owner and five staff members.

The factory roof was made of mud and wooden pillars, weakened by rains last month. There are even reports that workers had pleased to the factory owner to renovate, but the demand was continually ignored. The reasons are always avoidable and include gas leaks, exposed wiring, weak construction and cramped working conditions that leave no route for escape.

The accident should be another reminder that safety at the workplace needs to be given precedent. There is usually minimal attention paid to industrial safety policy. Additionally building and zoning regulations are weak and often not enforced.

Such incidents at factories and other buildings are not rare. At least 24 people had died and nine others injured as the roof of a mosque collapsed during prayers in Lahore’s Daroghawala area in September, 2014. In May this year, two persons including the owner of a factory were killed and six others injured when roof of a factory collapsed followed by a boiler blast in Township, Lahore. The blast at the three-storey building had been caused by a gas leak. A devastating fire ripped through the timber market in Karachi in in December, 2014. Just a day later a massive fire swept through a commercial plaza in a busy Lahore bazaar, killing 13 people.

Weak enforcement of safety standards by the government is to blame. The matter needs to be taken up at the policy making level in the Punjab, so that all places of employment are monitored. The Punjab bureaucracy needs to be given some lessons in effective implementation of rules, as well as some lessons in honesty. However, weak governance is no excuse for people to break laws and put the lives of others at risk. All entrepreneurs and factor owners have a responsibility towards their worker to provide them fair wages and safe working conditions.