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After the appalling disaster in 2013, IOSH was pleased to host joint-stakeholder events to promote the new five-year Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (bit.ly/1DbFEWg). The accord is an innovative and legally binding initiative that brings together big brand names and trade unions to help to tackle the serious safety and health problems that Rana Plaza typified.
Public accessibility of corrective action plans and inspection reports is a positive feature of the accord. So too are its inspection programme, remediation work, training, health and safety committees, complaints mechanisms and the right to refuse unsafe work. This is particularly important when we remember reports that Rana Plaza workers felt pressured into continuing to work despite dangerous cracks in the building.
Five years on, a report summarises its achievements, citing 83% of safety issues verified as fixed or pending verification. The total for electrical defects is 92.7%; fire 82.2%; and structural 70.6%. The report says 699 out of 1,631 factories have reached more than 90% remediation, but "major life-threatening safety concerns remain outstanding in too many factories".
The Bangladesh government has now agreed the accord will continue until substantial additional enforcement capacity is developed and a national regulatory body can take over. There is a joint monitoring committee made up of accord brands and union signatories, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the International Labour Organization, and the Bangladesh government. This will conduct biannual reviews and agree when conditions for "handover" are met, followed by a six-month transition.
The transition accord already has 140 brands signed up, from Europe, the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Turkey. It strengthens the previous accord by voluntary expansion to industries such as home textiles, fabric and knitted accessories.
Upskilling at grassroots level is vital and even small-scale projects can help. IOSH was pleased to co-fund the OHS Initiative for Workers and Community in Bangladesh. This project reported the awarding of certificates to delegates last year as part of its Train the Trainer programme. The 20-day training course used interactive audiovisual materials and participation, as well as visits to garment factories to gain experience. It will now be circulated across the sector, potentially helping to save and transform lives.
More widely, the past five years have brought several supply chain-related developments. The ISO 20400 guidance helps organisations to ensure their procurement is socially responsible, consistent with the United Nations' sustainable development goals, which include healthy lives and wellbeing for all ages and decent work for all. The new ISO 45001 standard also requires an organisation to have processes to control the procurement so that they conform to its OSH management system.
To extend risk management as far into the supply chain as organisations have control and influence, we need responsible procurement, setting realistic timescales and costings and working with suppliers to raise standards.
When reporting systems are robust, accident frequency rates are the most obvious sign of the state of OSH management.But they also come late, trailing interventions by months and telling a story about their effect sometimes too late to be much use.Gathering data on near-misses and unpicking those that had the potential to do serious harm adds a predictive element, but it’s still a measure of what you didn’t do rather than what you did.
The executive has published a new web guide that it hopes will prevent employers from investing in generalised training courses for lifting after research found they were ineffective in controlling manual handling risks at work.
Jim Collins’ team studied 6,000 journal articles and generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts in a five-year project as they researched the 1,435 largest US companies. From these they identified 11 that had excelled.
Exoskeletons – wearable robotic structures that can increase human strength – are familiar to fans of sci-fi and superhero films. Sigourney Weaver encased in a cargo handling frame walloping an extra-terrestrial was a standout moment in the film Aliens. But on a smaller scale such devices could soon be put to more plausible use in the fight against work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).Most of the development of exoskeletons for “real world” applications in the past 20 years has focused on medical rehabilitation and the military.
Precast concrete products manufacturer CPM Group was fined £660,000 after 43-year-old fitter Jeffery Baulf was fatally crushed when the conveyor started moving as he was carrying out maintenance work at the company’s plant in Frome, Somerset on 3 October 2016.