Project ideas generated by the May 7, 2014, Forum on the Bangladesh Garment Industry hosted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at its Washington, DC, offices.
On May 7th, representatives of the organizations listed below heard presentations from the Embassy of Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau on ongoing efforts to improve safety and health in the 3,600 cut-and-sew factories that make up Bangladesh’s “ready made garment” industry.
The presenters also identified what they consider to be the priority needs and gaps for effective occupational safety and health programs in Bangladesh. In the two hours following the four presentations, additional ideas and proposals were made during general discussion.
The follow-up plan is for each of the represented organizations to take these proposals to their memberships the list of possible projects below to recruit member volunteers interested in donating their time and expertise to initiating and carrying out one or more of the potential projects. Leaders of the American Society of Safety Engineers and the American Industrial Hygiene Association will present these possible projects at their upcoming annual conferences this summer.
The next gathering of the participants in the May 7th meeting was tentatively proposed for Washington, DC, in October 2014, around the time of the AIHA’s Fall Conference, depending the progress of identifying, defining and initiating projects between May and •October.
Garrett Brown, MPH, CIH, is acting as interim coordinator of projects.
The organizations represented at the May 7th Forum included:
•Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety
•American Industrial Hygiene Association
•American Public Health Association – Occupational Health and Safety Section
•American Society of Safety Engineers
•Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety
•Canadian Society of Safety Engineers
•Center for Safety and Health Sustainability
•International Occupational Hygiene Association
•Embassy of Bangladesh
•National Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health
•Occupational Safety and Health Administration – International Affairs
•U.S. Department of Labor – International Labor Affairs Bureau
•Workplace Health Without Borders
Possible Projects By OHS Professionals in the United States To Assist Ongoing Efforts to Improve Bangladesh Factory Safety Policy and Program Development
•assistance in developing up to date government regulations
•assistance in developing “core versions” of OHSMS programs such as Z10, ILO and ISO that could be easily implemented in Bangladesh factories
•assistance in developing and tracking appropriate leading indicators for Bangladesh workplaces to inform government and employer OHS programs
•assistance in developing policies and programs to generate and nurture a “workers voice” on workplace health and safety issues, including application, as appropriate, of worker participation aspects of OHSMS standards like Z10
Policy and Program Implementation/Enforcement
•provision of essential inspection equipment to government inspectors
•provision of training to government inspectors on field enforcement
•provision of training to managers/supervisors tasked with implementing factory level programs
•provision of fire and building codes circa 1970-80 to create a blend of existing technology in Bangladesh with effective standards of the previous era
•gap analysis of Bangladesh’s OHS regulatory regulations and enforcement
•gap analysis of the training needs of employer and worker organizations
•gap analysis of the prerequisites for the development of academic and professional OHS programs
•basic surveillance data of occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities
•collection of workers’ stories and descriptions of successful actions related to workplace health and safety
•development an inventory list of existing training materials and curriculum appropriate for the garment industry around the world
•development an inventory list of Bangladesh organizations related to OHS, including government agencies and professional associations; and an inventory of employer organizations, worker and community-based organizations which could distribute OHS information and materials
Training and Materials
•“short courses” on key technical topics – fire codes, fire system technologies, electrical codes, building integrity, garment industry-specific hazards, general OHS topics
•“short courses” on key implementation topics – effective health & safety committees, basics of factory OHS management systems and programs; effective techniques for training workers
•specific training of government inspectors on the topics above
•specific training of international brands’ and retailers’ in-country auditors on the topics above
•specific training of supervisors and managers on the topics above
•specific in-plant training of factory workers on the topics above
•specific off-site training of workers, unions, community-based organizations on the topics above
•immediate and long term vocational training for designers and installers of fire and electrical systems
•development of visual “hazard cards” with actual photographs of fire and electrical hazards; and of appropriate written “hazard alerts”
•development of written materials highlighting workers’ stories related to key health and safety issues and how to address them
•provision of high-quality OHS reference materials, teaching materials, implementation guides and checklists
•hands-on assistance in establishing effective factory-level OHS programs; effective H&S committees, effective training of manager/supervisors and of workers
•hands-on assistance in creating effective fire protection systems by blending current state of the art fire prevention principles, the actual fire equipment in use, and 20th century fire codes first established to govern the use of the equipment now being used in Bangladesh
•hands-on assistance in implementing quality assurance programs for both OHS programs and fire/electrical systems
•hands-on assistance in the development and growth of academic OHS programs, and professional certification programs
•development of “sister organization” relationships between Bangladeshi and North American OHS associations, university departments, governmental bodies, trade unions and community organizations
Audio/Visual OHS-related Materials
• technical assistance in developing technically accurate content for OHS A/V materials for various populations (workers, supervisors and managers, and community members)
•provision of production expertise, equipment, and facilities for the creation of effective A/V materials
OHS-related Industrial Development
•provision of business and industry contacts outside Bangladesh that might be interested in partnering with local companies to develop a national industry in fire protections systems (fire doors, sprinklers, water pumps, etc.)
While a wide range of initiatives were considered at the May 7th meeting, as reflected above, there were four specific projects that were the most discussed and could be the first efforts undertaken by interested members of the occupational health and safety community in North America.
These projects were:
(1) Training on various topics for the greatly increased number of government inspectors, and making this training available to the auditors from other initiatives who are now conducting workplace inspections as well;
(2) Training for local designers and installers of fire and electrical systems on the relevant codes and best practices;
(3) Development, training and assistance in establishing of essential core elements of occupational health and safety management systems that are appropriate for and could be successfully implemented at existing garment factories; and
(4) Development and distribution of pictorial "hazard cards" for workers which depict unsafe and safe electrical systems, and unsafe and safe conditions that contribute to the start and spread of factory fires.
For additional information on all the projects outlines above, and to be put into contact with OHS professionals working on these initiatives, please contact Garrett Brown at 510-558-1014 and email@example.com.