Project to raise awareness of safety and health in Bangladesh factories

10 October 2016

A three-year project will raise awareness of safety and health among more than 6,000 workers in Bangladesh’s factories and the communities that surround them.

factory floor cropped

The project, called OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) Initiative for Workers and Communities, will see 75 people trained to deliver workshops in Dhaka in its garment, construction, ship-breaking and other similar industries.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has co-funded the project. IOSH, the World Solidarity Movement (WSM) in Belgium, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the USA, LUSH Cosmetics “Charity Pot” in Canada, and a group of anonymous donors in San Francisco, California, have provided a total in excess of $53,000 for the first year of the project. Fundraising will continue for the second and third years.

A recruitment and hiring committee has been formed to contract four staff members for the first year – a Project Coordinator, Training Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, and part-time Financial Officer/Accountant. 

Once hired, they will begin developing curriculum and materials. The trainers will undergo a programme including skill-building courses on techniques for conducting effective courses with workers who have limited formal education and limited time given their work and family responsibilities.

The Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE) Foundation in Dhaka is serving as the secretariat of the project, with its offices housed in the same building as OSHE in the Mirpur District of Dhaka.

The OSHE is one of six non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the board of the project. The others are labour rights group Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, research and information organisation Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies, public health organisation Gonoshasthaya Kendra, trade union group IndustriALL Bangladesh Council and women’s rights organisation Naripokkho.

They are joined on the board by the California Collaborative, which is made up of four safety and health groups in the US state and which organised the fundraising. 

Garrett Brown, Coordinator at the California Collaborative and a project board member, said: “One of the biggest challenges in Bangladesh is to overcome the lack of awareness and knowledge of occupational health and safety concepts and issues, especially at the grassroots level. This project is a small but important first step towards building the capacity of workers and their organisations to play their essential role in effective factory health and safety. 

“IOSH is to be congratulated for its strong support of this project – the first organisation to contribute – and for its longstanding concern about global OHS.” 

IOSH has been supporting international efforts to help safeguard those working in garment factories, particularly since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 workers. The Institution has backed similar projects on fire safety training as well as working with others on a Parliamentary debate called Ethical Fashion 2020: a new vison for transparency and arranging a webinar called Effective OSH in global supply chains. 

Richard Jones, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at IOSH, said: “IOSH is delighted to be supporting this very worthwhile collaboration and its aim to develop health and safety trainers and knowledgeable workers in a range of hazardous sectors. 

“Importantly, we believe this training will help increase levels of health and safety awareness and support meaningful worker participation in factory health and safety committees. 

“We think this is a really positive and welcome project, helping to build health and safety capacity in Bangladesh. Overall, the initiative not only has the potential to save lives and prevent injury and illness, but also to support a more sustainable future for workers and communities.

Image: OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) Initiative for Workers and Communities, will see 75 people trained to deliver workshops in Dhaka in its garment, construction, ship-breaking and other similar industries.