For inclusive growth, the government and civil society needs to work together

CPD-ILO jointly organizes first-ever Industry Safety Forum

Safety of workers at the workplace results from multi-level interventions, both within the workplace and beyond. Keeping it in mind, both industries and public institutions need to implement occupational safety and health regulations (OSH) with coordination.

The role of industries should be to promote a mature safety culture throughout the enterprise by establishing safety management systems that go through reviews frequently. The safety management system should utilize inherently safer technology principles in designing and operating hazardous installations.

On the other hand, public authorities should develop, enforce, and continuously improve policies, regulations and practices, incentivizing all stakeholders to adhere to safety standards. They should also ensure effective communication and cooperation between all relevant institutions responsible for ensuring safety.

Speakers said this at the first-ever Industrial Safety Forum (ISF) in Bangladesh jointly organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and International Labour Organizations (ILO) on Thursday.

Speaking as the chief guest, Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun noted that this first forum provided a knowledge-sharing platform for the stakeholders to collaborate for ensuring a safe working environment in industries.

Meanwhile, the special guest of the forum, Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and Employment Md Ehsan-E-Elahi said that the ministry has formed two tripartite committees to review and amend the labour law to maintain decent workplaces and industrial safety. 

“For inclusive growth of the country, the government and the public bodies need to work with the employers and the civil society collaboratively,” Elahi said.

Principal Administrator of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Bertrand Dagallier pointed out that industrial accidents are continuously taking place all around the world. Over the past decade, successive major accidents have caused deaths, injuries, environmental pollution as well as massive economic losses.

He further said that recovering from such industrial accidents sets back development gains, which in turn takes time and is expensive. Many places are still suffering from events that happened years back.

In that regard, building a national safety framework that prioritizes the prevention of such industrial accidents through risk reduction is vital, argued Bertrand.

Chairperson of the National Coordination Committee for Workers' Education (NCCWE) Shamim Ara said that safety at workplaces not only keeps the workers secure, but also improves the worker-employer relationships, increases productivity, and takes the country forward.

During the session, speakers also pointed out that industrial safety in Bangladesh is still in its nascent stage of development with the overall framework and institutional preparedness, particularly related to building safety and OSH, and environmental concerns mostly lying outside the core activities in most industrial sectors.

“The government has purchased many new equipment and tools related to fighting fire and industrial hazards. However, if you look at our city planning or the planning across industrialized-rural areas, you will see there is hardly any space for us to pass through to reach the event location,” said the Director of the Fire Service and Civil Defense Directorate Lt Col Zillur Rahman. 

Speakers further opined that the readymade garments (RMG) sector set good examples by upgrading its standards and practices and the safety progress. The RMG sector should act as the precedent for all industrial sectors in underscoring the necessity to develop a comprehensive framework of industrial safety covering all safety-related issues across all sectors, economic activities, and commercial establishments. 

However, Research Director of CPD Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem pointed out that the informal sector which mostly entails small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has significantly different characteristics from large businesses in terms of their financial expertise, staffing capabilities and others. It affects their performance in terms of compliance with safety regulations. 

The research director further pointed out that in the case of SMEs, OSH is often perceived as irrelevant as they do not have a huge workforce, having their own unique set-up that should be subjected to a different level of OSH management.

Country Director of ILO Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen said: “ISF provided a platform to discuss, engage and collaborate for improving workplace safety and health in all economic sectors across Bangladesh. We hope the recommendations and commitments shared at the forum will drive the process of developing a national industrial safety framework.”

ISF held two technical sessions on the “Role of Public Institutions in Developing Industrial Safety Framework” and “Employers’ Role in Implementing OSH Regulations in the Industry.” Experts representing government officials, private sector and labour leaders shared their opinions at these sessions.

Among others, Executive Director of CPD Dr Fahmida Khatun; Chairman of National Coordination Committee for Workers' Education (NCCWE) Shamim Ara;  FBCCI President Md Jashim Uddin; BGMEA President Faruque Hassan; Executive President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Mohammad Hatem; President of Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters  Association (BPGMEA) Shamim Ahmed were present at the event.