On October 2, 2016, the OHS Initiative for Workers and Community received the legally required approval from the Bangladesh government’s NGO Bureau to begin operations, green-lighting its “train-the-trainer” program on workplace health and safety with six leading labor, women’s, public health and occupational health and safety (OHS) organizations.
Pictured are Board members of the OHS Initiative from left to right:
Repon Chowdhury (OSHE) - Secretary of the Initiative Board; Tamanna Khan (Naripokkho) - Chairperson of the Initiative Board ;
Kalpona Akter (BCWS) – Board; Kutubuddin Ahmed (IndustriALL Bangladesh Council) – Board; Ghulam Mustafa Dulal (GK) – Board; Sushmita S Preetha (Country Representative, WRC Bangladesh, Office) representing Garrett Brown (MHSSN) – Board.
The OHS Initiative Governing Board met on August 31 to approve plans to begin hiring staff, develop Banglalanguage materials, and recruit trainers from the member organizations to become grassroots OHS trainers with workers in Bangladesh’s garment, construction, shipbreaking and other industries.
The NGO Bureau approval means the OHS Initiative can now receive and begin spending the funds raised for its first year budget and begin operations. More than $53,000 was contributed by the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) in the UK, the World Solidarity Movement (WSM) in Belgium, the National Fire Association (NFPA) in the US, LUSH Cosmetics “Charity Pot” in Canada, and a group of anonymous donors in San Francisco, California.
The Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE) Foundation in Dhaka is serving as the Secretariat of the OHS Initiative, whose offices will be housed in the same building as OSHE in the Mirpur District of Dhaka. The Governing Board formed a recruitment and hiring committee to contract the four staff members envisioned in the first year budget: Project Coordinator, Training Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, and part-time Financial Officer/Accountant. The Chair of the Governing Board is held by the women’s rights organization Naripokkho.
Once hired, Initiative staff will begin developing curriculum and materials designed for OHS topics with a group of experienced trainers drawn from the six member organizations. These trainers, already conducting effective worker education on a range of topics including labor law, women’s rights, and public health issues, will be qualified at the end of the “train-the-trainer” program to expand their repertoire to include key OHS topics. Trainers will also receive skill-building courses from the Initiative on techniques for conducting effective courses with workers with limited formal education and limited time given their work and family responsibilities.
Initiative staff will evaluate, select and adapt from numerous existing OHS materials generated by national and international projects on workplace safety in the garment industry since the Rana Plaza building collapse. Many of these materials have been collected and posted on a Bangla-language webpage of the Labor Occupational Safety and Health (LOSH) program at the University of California in Los Angeles. Initiative staff will customize lesson plans and materials for its audience of grassroots workers and community members.
As Initiative staff begins operations in Dhaka during the fall of 2016, members of the four-organization California Collaborative will continue to raise funds for years two and three of the project.