Workers’ safety law stalls at the drafting board
After being swung between various government departments and international organisations for input, the Occupational Safety and Health Law appears to be no closer to completion than it was when the legislative drafting first started four years ago.
DESPITE being in the works since 2012, there is no end in sight for enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Law, which has not yet reached the floor of the hluttaw for a vote.
Since it was drafted, the law has been discussed among representatives from relevant ministries, labour organisations and businesses, but no final version of the law has been agreed.
According to U Nyint Win, a deputy director from the Factories and General Labour Law Inspection Department, the current draft is being examined by the Attorney General’s Office.
“We are awaiting comment from the Attorney General’s Office on the law. Once we have received it, the process will continue,” he said.
An official from the Attorney General’s Office, who declined to be named, said that such feedback should not be expected any time soon.
“It will take a long time to be sent back to the Ministry of Labour,” the official said.
The new law will regulate workplace safety issues such as fire prevention, protective equipment, safe working practices and disaster-preparedness.
Labour analyst U Aung Lin said Myanmar’s occupational safety and health laws have received very few updates since 1951 and that such updates are necessary as the country opens itself further to foreign investment.
“The government must provide the means for workers to receive protection in their workplaces and should not delay the enactment of this law, which has already taken three years to develop,” he said.
The Ministry of Labour said workers are adequately protected while the new law is being developed by the 1951 Factory Act and the 2012 Social Welfare Act.
However, according to U Aung Lin, these laws do not provide adequate protection for workers in modern-day Myanmar as they are either outdated or require workers to pay contributions into a sort of insurance fund if they wish to receive workplace compensation.
Under the 1951 Factory Law, the family of a worker who is killed in the workplace will only receive a maximum of K400,000 (US$312) in compensation. And the act does not cover all workers in all workplaces.
Workplace accidents are not uncommon in Myanmar, where scaffolding, hard hats and other safety equipment are often missing from construction sites, and factory workers have told The Myanmar Times they are typically required to furnish their own protective gear.
U Naw Aung, vice chair of the Myanmar Industries Craft and Services Trade Unions Federation, echoed U Aung Lin’s calls for speedy enactment of the new law as the current legislative framework is outdated and does not provide adequate protection for workers.
Labour advocates say Myanmar’s workers need more protection.