Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is an area that is gaining increasing importance in all the countries of South Asia. A number of countries are moving forward the process towards the ratification of the ILO’s conventions related to OSH, namely Occupational Safety and Health Convention (No. 155) and its Protocol of 2002 and Promotional Framework for OSH Convention (No. 187). The governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations are now showing increasing commitment to improving and promoting OSH standards and related inspection systems and have been pioneering new approaches to promote work place safety in the region.
The common challenges faced by the South Asian countries are: i) OSH policies are either fragmented or absent- laws with limited scope and no clear standards or sanctions for offenders. ii) weak and ineffective labour inspection services iii)Absence of complementary compliance strategies iv) lack of consultation and engagement of workers and employers v) lack of data and information management vi) lack of OSH Specialists and OSH Practitioners vii) lack of awareness about the subject among the workers and employers viii) lack of OSH researchers and viii) lack of OSH laboratories, training institutions and programmes.
The other significant challenges the countries face are the growing informal economy, expansion of flexible forms of employment, expansion of labour migration and new risks associated with the use of new technology.
Increasingly, the emerging issues in the region are a) building safety and structural integrity b) fire and electrical safety c) EPZs d) growing labour intensive sector (apparel industry) and e) highly hazardous sectors like ship breaking, brick industries, manual scavenging, etc. These labour intensive industries have high risks to workplace health and safety. As a consequence, most of the work-related accidents, diseases and occupational hazards go undetected and unreported, leading to underestimation of the problems.
Under these circumstances, there is a need to enhance knowledge and technical capacity among governments, employers and trade Unions, to promote occupational safety and health including the importance of the ratification and implementation of ILO standards on occupational safety and health as a cornerstone for improving working environment and ensuring safe and healthy working condition for workers in all sectors of economic activity. There is also an opportunity to strengthen collaboration among SAARC countries in a number of technical areas in the field of occupational safety and health. In this context, a three-day tripartite expert meeting is being proposed to be organized by the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), India, with technical support from the ILO, during the period 28-30 June 2016. The overall aim of this expert meeting is to deepen the understanding of the occupational safety and health challenges facing the governments, employers and workers in South Asia and to develop comprehensive, collaborative and well-coordinated strategies to address them.
The purpose of the meeting is to bring together occupational safety and health experts from South Asia, as well as ILO specialists, to enhance knowledge-sharing and technical collaboration on occupational safety and health issues among SAARC countries.
The meeting is expected to:
1. Identify and discuss recent trends and developments of occupational safety and health in South Asia and highlight relevant challenges and good practices
2. Facilitate dialogue to promote the ratification of the ILO conventions on occupational safety and health, particularly the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, C155, and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, No. 187
3. Develop a sub-regional knowledge sharing and experts’ network on Occupational Safety and Health
4. Facilitate sharing international experiences and good practices on promoting workplace safety and health standards.
The participants include the government officials, occupational safety and health specialists and experts from the SAARC countries, workers and employers, and OSH specialists from the ILO.
The meeting will discuss the following key topics:-
• International Labour Standards on OSH.
• Occupational safety and health challenges and Perspectives in South Asia
• Good practice, lessons learned and priorities for the Promotion of OSH in South Asian Countries
• Areas of potential cooperation and collaboration on OSH among South Asian countries
• Extending OSH measures to small enterprises and the informal economy
• Technical areas for collaboration, on OSH, among countries in the sub region.