Mark­ing the World Day for Safety and Health at Work 28 April 2019

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Den­mark and the EU are mark­ing the World Day for Safety and Health at Work and us­ing it to raise aware­ness of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards for oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health, why it is im­por­tant and what the EU’s own lessons in this field are. Safety and health at work are key at Euro­pean work­places and an im­por­tant fac­tor for Euro­pean com­pa­nies when as­sess­ing in­vest­ment and mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad, in­clud­ing in Myan­mar.

Since 2013, the EU funded SMART Myan­mar pro­gramme has pro­vided rec­om­men­da­tions to Myan­mar fac­to­ries to help strengthen their com­pli­ance with social stan­dards and im­prove work­ing con­di­tions. It is in the area of health and safety where the bulk of the rec­om­men­da­tions have been made. In many in­stances, im­prov­ing health and safety in fac­to­ries has con­trib­uted to expanding Myan­mar’s ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties to the Euro­pean Mar­ket. Fur­ther­more, since 2016, Den­mark has worked di­rectly with the Min­istry of Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion and sup­ported it in build­ing its ca­pac­ity in oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health (OSH), in­clud­ing through direct train­ing of OSH in­spec­tors by the Dan­ish Work­ing En­vi­ron­ment Au­thor­ity.

Oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health is im­por­tant for the eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment of Myan­mar

To be able to en­sure sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and eco­nomic growth, it is im­por­tant for Myan­mar to build a cul­ture and de­velop laws and rules, which guar­an­tee oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health.

EU com­pa­nies are sen­si­tive to social com­pli­ance and rep­u­ta­tional risks. This means that the ex­tent to which OSH is ad­dressed is an im­por­tant fac­tor for the com­pa­nies when look­ing for new mar­ket op­por

tu­ni­ties and for part­ners among lo­cal com­pa­nies. Dan­ger­ous work­ing con­di­tions and the preva­lence of pro­longed, po­ten­tially vi­o­lent and highly pub­li­cized in­dus­trial dis­putes which im­pact neg­a­tively on the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment are de­ter­mi­nants in this re­gard. The lack of a well-reg­u­lated and trans­par­ent labour mar­ket where oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health falls short of Euro­pean and In­ter­na­tional stan­dards can be a ma­jor bar­rier for at­tract­ing Euro­pean com­pa­nies to the Myan­mar mar­ket.

Rais­ing aware­ness of OSH in Myan­mar

Since 2011, Myan­mar has ini­ti­ated a com­pre­hen­sive re­form process aimed at achiev­ing a more demo­cratic, mar­ket-based and so­cially equal so­ci­ety.

In this process, strength­en­ing aware­ness of the im­por­tance of pri­or­i­tiz­ing oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health and at the same time pre­vent­ing in­juries, dis­eases and deaths is an im­por­tant task. Here it is im­por­tant to:

- Work with chang­ing peo­ples’ ap­proach to haz­ardous work­ing con­di­tions and teach work­ers the value of work­ing safe, how to work safer and what their rights are when it comes to a safe work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

- Raise aware­ness at the work­places and fac­to­ries and help the lead­ers and man­agers un­der­stand the pos­i­tive value it has for the com­pany if they pri­or­i­tize a health­ier and safer work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

- Fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing and en­forc­ing laws and reg­u­la­tions and en­sur­ing that en­force­ment is de­signed to add pres­sure on com­pa­nies to pro­vide safe work­places.

Com­pa­nies and the govern­ment in Myan­mar ap­pear to be keen and in­ter­ested in to take steps to­wards im­prov­ing oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health. This has helped raise aware­ness of the im­por­tance of pri­or­i­tiz­ing a fo­cus on health and safety at work.

Myan­mar’s new Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Law

Af­ter many years in the mak­ing, the new Law on Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health was adopted by the Par­lia­ment in March. The law shows that Myan­mar is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Some of the pos­i­tive ef­fects of the new law are that more sec­tors and thereby more work­places and work­ers will be cov­ered by the new law, work­places are re­quired to form an OSH Com­mit­tee, and a tri­par­tite Na­tional OSH Coun­cil will be es­tab­lished.

The next im­por­tant step will be to en­sure an ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion and en­force­ment of the law. For this to be a suc­cess, im­ple­ment­ing guid­ance needs to be de­vel­oped to en­able a suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the new law. Here it is also im­por­tant that the govern­ment with the sup­port from EU coun­tries and the in­ter­na­tional community works with re­vis­ing in­ter­nal stan­dards, oper­at­ing pro­ce­dures, tem­plates and tools for plan­ning, pre­par­ing, car­ry­ing out and fol­low­ing up on work place in­spec­tions. These ef­forts are all im­por­tant in fa­cil­i­tat­ing ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the en­force­ment of the new OHS law.

Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween em­ploy­ers and work­ers

An im­por­tant fac­tor in keep­ing work­places safe and healthy is that the com­pany own­ers rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween em­ploy­ers and work­ers. Sev­eral fac­tors are im­por­tant and nec­es­sary in or­der to es­tab­lish a pos­i­tive cul­ture around the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween com­pany man­age­ment and em­ploy­ees.

The em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees need to know that they have dif­fer­ent roles in re­gard to en­sur­ing a healthy work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Em­ploy­ers have the main re­spon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing and keep­ing the work­place safe, how­ever, em­ploy­ees also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in the work for safety. How­ever, be­hav­ior, com­pe­tence, col­lab­o­ra­tion, pro­ce­dures and the phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment are also im­por­tant for build­ing up a good OSH cul­ture.

Bar­ri­ers for Myan­mar de­vel­op­ing an OSH cul­ture

Some of the chal­lenges for Myan­mar is that many com­pa­nies of­ten have few re­sources, heavy work­loads and in­volve mul­ti­ple tasks for the work­ers. Be­cause of lack of aware­ness, lack of re­sources and un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing against haz­ardous work, em­ployee of­ten con­duct their tasks in places where the en­vi­ron­ment does not al­ways meets re­quired stan­dards.

In some cases with small or fam­ily owned com­pa­nies, fam­ily mem­bers, such as chil­dren, preg­nant women and el­derly peo­ple are of­ten ex­posed to haz­ardous work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

To­day, the main chal­lenges for oc­cu­pa­tional safety and health in the manufactur­ing in­dus­tries are ac­ci­dents and phys­i­cal and chem­i­cal agents, while pes­ti­cides and or­ganic dusts, heavy phys­i­cal work, bi­o­log­i­cal fac­tors and ac­ci­dents are the oc­cu­pa­tional bur­dens of agri­cul­tural work­ers. It is im­por­tant for Myan­mar to ad­dress these prob­lems.

A long his­tory and knowl­edge about OSH in EU and Den­mark

The EU and Den­mark has a long his­tory in ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion of Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health. It has been at the heart of the EU from the start with the cre­ation of the Euro­pean Coal and Steel Community. The ma­jor mile­stone for OSH in the EU was the pub­li­ca­tion of the first OSH Direc­tive in 1989, which laid down com­mon principles and placed risk as­sess­ment at the cen­ter of the EU’s leg­is­la­tion in the area.

Den­mark has had an Act on worker pro­tec­tion since 1973 when a govern­ment au­thor­ity - the Dan­ish Work­ing En­vi­ron­ment Au­thor­ity - was set up to su­per­vise com­pli­ance with the Act.

Myan­mar and Den­mark’s col­lab­o­ra­tion on OSH

Since 2016, Den­mark has worked di­rectly with the Min­istry of Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion. The fo­cus on the col­lab­o­ra­tion is to strengthen the ca­pac­ity of the Fac­to­ries and General Labour Laws In­spec­tion De­part­ment (FGLLID) to im­ple­ment and en­force OSH pol­icy and le­gal frame­work in a trans­par­ent, uni­form and ef­fec­tive man­ner, and to strengthen the ca­pac­ity of the tri­par­tite con­stituents to con­duct con­struc­tive social dia­logue.

Work­ers on a con­struc­tion site in Yan­gon. Photo: EPA

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