World Day for Safety and Health at Work: SRS Improves Working Conditions in Bangladesh

On Work Safety Day, we highlight the work of SRS in Bangladesh, giving an incredible helping hand to workers and public safety.

Each year we pin the 28th of April down in the calendar for marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. 

It promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.

To learn about this Youth Time spoke to Sekender Ali Mina, Executive Director, Safety and Rights Society (SRS)- a non-governmental organisation working in the improvement of workplace conditions and promoting consumer and public safety in Bangladesh.

SRS’s mission is to ensure workers and public rights through enforcing laws and regulations.

Mina elaborates their everyday work, and also shares his say on this year’s theme which focuses on strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health (OSH) systems to build resilience, in order to face crises now and in the future, drawing on lessons learned and experiences from the world of work.


A Determination to Improve Working Conditions

“Every workplace should be safe and free from violations, harassment and exploitation.” he initially says, while explaining that SRS also observes this day sometimes with the respective ministry and sometimes individually.

For a decade now, SRS is focused toward improving working conditions and ensuring that the overall conditions faced by people at work are decent and are at the very least in compliance with the laws in Bangladesh.

He explains some of the key projects and initiatives making this mission possible.

“Since 2009, SRS has implemented many projects, of which some were short, some were campaign based or humanitarian support based, such as Actions for Democratic Budget Movement.

“Other times we organised `People’s Budget Assembly 2016’, which organised advocacy and campaigning events targeting national budget, humanitarian support for RMG women workers and humanitarian support for COVID-19 affected informal workers.”

Distributing cash cheque under Humanitarian Support programme of SRS
Helping Hand: Distributing cash cheque under Humanitarian Support programme of SRS

Medium term projects include: Mainstreaming the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights in Bangladesh, Advisory and Capacity Building Services on the UNGP on BHR to Improve the Business Environment in Bangladesh.

“We have also implemented some long-term projects such as Workplace Safety Compensation and Accountability (WSCA), Sustainable Actions for Promoting Safety of RMG industries in Bangladesh (SAPS), Sustainable and Responsible Actions for Making Industries Care (SRAMIC).

“Among these long-term projects, the first two projects are running.”


Workers in Bangladesh Face Various Challenges

He further expands on other challenges faced by workers in Bangladesh, besides safety.

“The state of labour standard is minimal in Bangladesh. Apart from the formal sector, the informal sector is the most negligible one. 

“Health and Safety matters were not a priority for no-one before the devastating building collapse in 2013.”

The scenario has changed a little.

“Nowadays workers and other stakeholders are concerned about safety, though it is far away from the requirements. 

“Besides health and safety, workers’ sufferings have many facets, which affect their personal, social and professional life. 

“Job insecurity, wage gap, absence of social security, the rarity of enjoying leave and other benefits, deprived from freedom of association, lack of organisational/bargaining capacity are some impediments that workers are facing in their daily working life.”

To address these issues, SRS is extensively concentrating to improve the knowledge and capacity of workers and their representative organisations through legal support, training, meeting, advocacy, research, dialogue and documentation. 


2021 Theme and SRS’ Contribution

As we mentioned in the beginning of this piece, this year’s theme will focus on strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health systems to build resilience.

SRS is implementing the project offering support to low-income workers, especially female workers during COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mina shares his say on this, and how the pandemic worsened worker’s conditions.

“The impact of COVID-19 is deeply rooted in the lives of workers, especially to informal sector workers. 

“In the beginning the impact was mainly to the livelihoods, which gradually have spread to every sphere of life including couple life. The current wave of COVID-19 pandemic has damaged worker’s lives badly. 

“This may stop the workers from raising their voice against any kind of repression.

“The employers may put an extra nail to the workers’ coffin.”

SRS has implemented two short-term humanitarian support projects.

The first project was in 2020, ended in July 2020 and covered 647 worker’s families, who have received food (rice, pulses/lentils, potato, oil, salt) and sanitary (soap, detergent, face mask) items.  

The second project started in January 2021 and will end in April 2021. Under this project 600 jobless workers will benefit cash support and 360 workers’ families will get a hygiene kit that contains five masks, five towels, five soaps, one-kilogram detergent and one water jar.

“Considering the needs and demands, the support was very negligible, and we could cover very few. 

“The good feeling is that though it is very tiny, instead of keeping away we could do something for the destitute workers.”

The bad feeling, he goes on, is that hundreds of workers are contacting them for help but they cannot help them.

Conclusively, he recalls that the common jargons are ‘Sustainable Business’, ‘Sustainable Growth’ and ‘Sustainable Employment’. 

But, at SRS, they believe that if we do not cover the workers with social protection, then nothing will be sustainable.  

Follow SRS on Facebook.

Photos: SRS

To read more about the building collapse in 2013, known as Rana Plaza tragedy, we recommend this piece:

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