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Seminar held on Workplace Health & Safety

By Esha Chowdhury ::
On the 01st of October a daylong seminar, on“The Role of Workplace Health & Safety to Gain Access to Global Markets” took place at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel. It was organized byDeutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and Western Marine Shipyard Limited (WMShL). The Chief Guest,Honorable Minister for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Prof. Dr. A. F. M. Ruhal Haque, M.P., inaugurated the seminar. The event was highlighted with the presence of bureaucrats and officials from the public & private sector.

The main objective of the seminar was focused on the strong positive correlation between good corporate responsibility and better business opportunity that has been proved through the successful Integrated Public-Private Partnership (iPPP) between MOHFW, GIZ and WMShL to improve the health and safety of shipyard workers and community members alike. With foreign governments being increasingly concerned about social and environmental responsibility of companies they cooperate with, this collaboration has increased the competitive edge of the shipyard on the international market.

WMShL is now the first shipyard in Bangladesh to acquire an internationally recognized certification in Occupational Health and Safety which increased the potential to compete in the global market. They successfully achieved the OHS 18001, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 certification. Due to the simple but highly effective measures introduced under this cooperation with the shipyard, the injury rate has dropped. The additional benefits for the company are reduction in medical costs, property damage, loss of working hours and increased worker’s morale.

The event started with the opening speech by Mr. Olaf Handloegten, Country Director of GIZ where he quoted “Through this cooperation about 25000 people in the direct neighborhood of the shipyard receive primary health care services.”

Mr. Saiful Islam, Chairman, Western Marine Shipyard said, “Over the years, we have perfected our shipbuilding standard because we understand that no matter how skill our human resources are- in the end it is firmly established management system that puts everything in a synchronized motion that matters”

“In the first year of the partnership between WMShL, MoHFW and GIZ, I was quite skeptical. However, now I am fully convinced that it was a farsighted decision. I am satisfied because our investment together with the support of GIZ have resulted in a competitive advantage for our company and secured export orders from global market” was the remark made by Mr. Sakhawat Hossain, Managing Director of Western Marine Shipyards in his speech.

Then the certificate giving ceremony took place after the remarkable speech made by Honourable Minister for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Prof.Dr. A. F. M. Ruhal Haque, M.P., where he quoted ““This innovative support by Germany on improving Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Management in Bangladesh is very important not just from the personal wellbeing perspective, but also from the perspective of economic development “

The seminar also moved to the Panel Discussion on the topic “Occupational Health and Safety, Environmental Management, the way forward.” The panel discussion consisted of many interactive discussion followed by question and answer session from the participants. The panellist where Olaf Handloegten, GIZ Bangladesh Country Director; Dr. Andy Thomson, Occupational Medicine Specialist; Sakhawat Hossain, Managing Director, Western Marine Shipyard Limited (WMShL); Moreover, a 14 minute documentary video of iPPP was projected to the audience that showed interviews with shipyard workers, the management, and the GIZ consultants who helped to implement the Occupational Health & Safety Strategy and Environmental Management.

In addition, Dr. Andy Thomson, Occupational Medicine Specialist gave a presentation on introducing the OHS management system in the WMShL and, Ms. Elka Shrestha, Senior Business Advisor, Promotion of Social & Environmental Standards in Industries, GIZ presented on Social Compliance in the RMG Sector. Also, the ILO contribution towards OHs was discussed. The seminar came to end with the discussions taken from thoughts and comments from the participants.

Hence, the setup of a comprehensive Occupational Health and Safety system in companies have has become an important strategy to remove a potential trade barrier. More companies need to develop their competencies in this area and set a trend in Bangladesh where the welfare of employees and the surrounding communities is seen as an investment rather than a cost burden. This will eventually be beneficial for the company to obtain more widespread adoption and certification in order to compete in the international market.

GIZ – Working efficiently, effectively and in a spirit of partnership, we support people and societies in developing, transition and industrialised countries in shaping their own futures and improving living conditions. Established on 1 January 2011, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH brings together under one roof the long-standing expertise of the DeutscherEntwicklungsdienst (DED) gGmbH (German Development Service), the Deutsche Gesellschaft fürTechnische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH (German technical cooperation) and Inwent – Capacity Building International, Germany. As a federally owned enterprise, we support the German Government in achieving its objectives in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. We are also engaged in international education work around the globe. In Bangladesh all our activities are commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), however GIZ works worldwide on behalf of other German ministries as well.

WMShL is a thriving shipbuilding enterprise in the Chittagong area. Their core business is constructing and exporting tailor made ocean-going vessels. As yet, more than 3500 formal and informal workers are employed. At the end of 2010, WMShL designed and constructed the largest vessels ever made in Bangladesh, giving a message to world that Bangladesh has entered in the world of heavy and hi-tech ship construction.

*Esha Chowdhury
Corporate Communication and Public Relations
Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
P.O. Box 6091
German House
Road 90, House 10/C, Gulshan 2
Dhaka 1212 / Bangladesh

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