AIHce Participants Meet to Plan Support Efforts for Bangladesh

By Garrett Brown
Posted July 16, 2014

Twenty-five AIHce participants met on June 4, 2014, in San Antonio, Texas, following a keynote address by Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova, to begin planning projects where occupational health and safety professionals in North America can assist the ongoing governmental and non-governmental efforts in Bangladesh to improve working conditions for the four million garment workers in the country’s 3,500 apparel factories.

This group of industrial hygienists is seeking OHS professionals able and willing to volunteer their time and expertise to the following projects:

  • Instruct three- to four-day courses in Bangladesh on key topics including fire life safety codes, electrical codes, basic building structural safety, effective inspection techniques, productive factory-level health and safety committees, and effective factory-level OHS programs and their implementation
  • Develop “training of trainers” courses on the OHS topics above that incorporate effective training techniques for various audiences, such as the staff of government agencies, non-governmental organizations (employer associations and unions), and community-based worker organizations
  • Present live or recorded webinars on the topics above for broadcasts or showings of one to three hours in lengt
  • Develop a bibliography of existing OHS materials related to fire, electrical, and building structural hazards—as well as other OHS issues—that are currently available on the Internet
  • Develop an inventory of existing written materials in English and other languages appropriate for garment factories and key OHS issues in all workplaces
  • Develop simple, pictorial hazard cards that would use photographs from current inspections to illustrate imminent fire, electrical, and building safety for low-literacy workers
  • Collaborate with other occupational safety and health professional organizations in North America, governmental agencies, and the Bangladeshi communities in the U.S. to initiate the activities above

Volunteers are being solicited from AIHA and other OHS-related associations to develop a roster of instructors willing to donate a week of their time to conduct trainings in Bangladesh. Once potential volunteer instructors have been recruited, the next step will be to develop a list of possible training topics (depending on the skill set of the volunteers and the needs in Bangladesh), generate curriculum appropriate for different audiences, and develop appropriate learning objectives and goals for post-training activities by participants.

Because of the large number of newly hired government inspectors and the number of employers and factory workers in Bangladesh’s apparel industry overall, any training will need to be “scalable” by generating local trainers through “train-the-trainer” sessions, providing ongoing technical assistance, and video-taping of educational activities for widespread distribution. 

Volunteers who are unable to travel but interested in improving factory conditions in Bangladesh are sought to begin development of a bibliography of available electronic resources and inventory of appropriate written materials, or to begin the outreach to Bangladeshi communities in North America.

Participants at the meeting in San Antonio noted a large number of OHS training materials already in existence that could be customized for the Bangladesh context and translation of key items. Among the sources of curriculum, lesson plans, and materials are OSHA Training Institutes (OTI), university-based programs, federal and state OSHA training departments, and the OHTA modules and materials. 

This effort will have a more significant impact if volunteers come from all OHS professional associations, government agencies such as the U.S. State Department and the Labor Department’s International Labor Affairs Bureau, and Bangladeshi communities in North America. The OHS professional organizations that attended a Bangladesh Forum on May 7, 2014, in Washington, D.C., will be offered the opportunity to work on joint projects.

Anyone interested in volunteering to assist with these initiatives should contact Garrett Brown via e-mail or phone at (510) 558-1014.

Report issued on June 10, 2014. 

Garrett Brown, MPH, CIH, is a member of the AIHA International Affairs Committee.