Ensuring Occupational Safety and Health in Bangladesh’s RMG sector in the time of COVID-19
This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work comes during a ‘second wave’ of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, and around the world. How we protect garment workers will dictate how resilient Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves.
Since emerging as a global crisis in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impacts on Bangladesh’s (RMG) sector. The pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of this sector, from the risk of transmission of the virus in factories, to heightened occupational safety and health (OSH) needs to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Supporting OSH measures for a sustainable recovery from COVID-19
Six years into its existence, Better Work Bangladesh (BWB) has had a significant and long-lasting impact on OSH in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Our partner factories have been demonstrating the commitment and capacity to maintain continuous improvement in OSH conditions by taking ownership of the improvement process.
As garment factories resumed operating at full scale, Better Work Bangladesh shifted its focus to helping the industry maintain its path to recovery from the disruption caused by COVID-19. Taking into account the national regulations and new realities, our approach prioritized mitigating the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on productivity, factory management and workers.
Based on those priorities, Better Work released a number of guidances including the COVID-19 Management Guidance document, Human Resources Guidelines and the Transitions and Retrenchments Guidelines to help factories reduce the risk of the coronavirus and take practical measures to navigate the disruptions caused by the crisis.
Launched in July 2020, the RMG Learning Hub continues to harmonize the ILO’s response to COVID-19 in the RMG industry, supported by the national stakeholders including the BGMEA, BKMEA and the Workers Resource Centre (WRC).
Better Work Bangladesh has also partnered with the German Government-supported Vision Zero Fund (VZF) to support OSH-oriented actions in the RMG industry to strengthen the national efforts for facilitating a safe continuation of work during the COVID-19.
In collaboration with the Promoting Social Dialogue and Harmonious Industrial Relations in the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment Industry (SDIR) Project of the ILO, BWB is also carrying out a robust advocacy campaign targeting the RMG workers and their employers to raise awareness of occupational health and safety measures against COVID-19.
On this OSH Day, let us reflect on the progress made in Occupational Safety and Health Management in Bangladesh’s RMG sector over the years and adjust priorities to ensure a safer workplace for all women and men working in this sector.