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Providing Life-Saving OHS Training to Workers in Bangladesh

​By Jennifer Newell

The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh thrust unsafe garment factory industry practices into the international spotlight, with a devastating 1,135 workers killed and 2,500 injured. 

In the face of this tragedy, many wondered, how could this happen? Others questioned, what can I do to prevent this from happening again?

Enter the OHS Initiative for Workers and Communities, a joint effort of six leading non-governmental organizations in Dhaka, with the goal of increasing OHS knowledge and capacity through grassroots worker organizations. Peer trainers will learn essential OHS topics in order to provide life-saving information and skills to workers in the garment, brick kiln, tannery, ship-breaking and other industries. 

Three of AIHA’s past presidents—Zack Mansdorf, Barbara Dawson, and John Henshaw—recently launched a Challenge Fund in support of this program, calling on AIHA members and other OHS professionals to join them. The fund is being coordinated by AIHA member Garrett Brown, one of the founders of the Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network, which provides information and technical assistance regarding workplace hazards to workers in the developing world. 

Here’s what Mansdorf, Dawson, and Henshaw had to say about the importance of this initiative and how it relates to the IH industry: 

Our profession has given a lot to me and my peers. What is most rewarding is that it is a profession dedicated to helping and protecting others. It is also important to improve the lives of those who have not had our opportunities to learn and apply our profession. The old Chinese proverb of “teaching a man to fish” is appropriate to the Bangladesh efforts spearheaded by Garrett Brown and to which I have pledged my support. I hope you will join with me and others in this great cause.
- Zack Mansdorf

I’m sure that all of us have seen the horrendous conditions under which many people are working in Bangladesh. We would like to be able to share some of our knowledge about worker health and safety protection with the employers and their employees in Bangladesh to help make the working conditions better. But we need funding in order to make that possible. I hope that you will be able to support us by making a contribution to this project. Any amount you can send will help our efforts.
- Barbara Dawson

We as professionals who have dedicated our lives to preserving worker health and safety know that education and standards are key to reducing safety and health risks in all parts of the world. The Bangladesh OHS project in my view has been successful in bring interested parties together to focus on employer/employee training and the development of responsible safety and health practices/standards in the region. 
​- John Henshaw

Other AIHA members, including Chris Laszcz-Davis, who recently completed a term on AIHA’s Board of Directors, have already heeded the call to support the OHS Initiative for Workers and Communities. “Leadership is, after all, ‘top-down bottom-up,’” Laszcz-Davis said. “This Bangladesh OHS Project has already made a significant ‘bottom-up’ leadership difference on a critical issue and in a part of the world requiring our support. It’s time to throw in some ‘top-down’ financial support to strengthen the work already underway.”

All contributions to the Challenge Fund are tax-deductible and every donation will go a long way to increase OHS knowledge and capacity where it’s needed most.

Interested in lending a hand? Donations can be sent to:
New Ways to Work
PO Box 124
Berkeley, CA 94701

For more information on how you can help, please contact garrettbrown@comcast.net


Jennifer Newell is AIHA’s digital marketing manager.​

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