54 industry representatives graduate from initial phase
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, 19 January 2024 – Better Work Sri Lanka recently launched its second Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Master Trainer Programme, aimed at bolstering the apparel industry’s capacity to improve workplace health and safety standards. This follows the graduation of 54 industry representatives from the first OSH Master Trainer Programme in 2023.
The graduates, including members of the apparel sector, the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon, the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Employment, and trade unions, are set to lead the implementation of OSH standards in their companies. The initiative underscores a collective commitment to safer workplaces and highlights the importance of social dialogue in driving change in Sri Lanka’s apparel industry. The second phase of the OSH Master Trainer Programme began in November 2023 and will conclude in March 2024.
Supported by the European Union, Better Work Sri Lanka, a partnership programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), aims to improve working conditions and foster economic growth in the country. The OSH Master Trainer Programme is a key part of this effort and is designed to establish Bipartite OSH committees and enhance safety practices in diverse industries.
“In our pursuit of transformative change, our focus is clear: 90% of our training curriculum is focused on reshaping behaviours, which makes it more effective than traditional workplace safety training,” said Better Work Sri Lanka’s Programme Manager, Kesava Murali Kanapathy. “True transformation occurs when behaviours are altered, when we embrace change, and when we commit to sustainable practices. This is not just an educational endeavour; it’s a learning journey.”
The OSH committees, led by the Master Trainers, and aligned with National Guidelines set by Sri Lanka’s Department of Labour, aim to reduce workplace accidents and injuries, foster a culture of safety, improve industrial relations, and boost productivity through enhanced social dialogue.
A journey of collaboration
At the graduation ceremony in December 2023, a panel, moderated by Better Work Sri Lanka’s Eranthi Premaratne, emphasized the key role bipartite OSH committees play in improving health and safety standards in the workplace.
The panellists included Dr. Champika Amarasinghe, Director General of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Vajira Ellepola, Director General of The Employer’s Federation of Ceylon (EFC), Yohan Lawrence, Secretary General of the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), and Edman Abeysiriwardena, Additional Secretary of Labour.
“The committees serve as the cornerstone of our commitment to creating an environment where workers and management collaboratively address safety concerns, minimise accidents, and collectively enhance the overall well-being of the workforce,” said B.K. Prabath Chandrakeerthi, Commissioner General of Labour. “We are happy to announce that in 2024, OSH bipartite committees will be a legal mandate.”
“Establishing a bipartite OSH committee is not just a regulatory commitment necessity, it is a strategic imperative for fostering a workplace that thrives on collaboration, safety, and productivity,” noted Dr. Johann Hesse, First Counsellor and Head of Cooperation at the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Gaya Kariyawasam, Manager Occupational Safety & Health at the Employers Federation of Ceylon, speaking on behalf of the Industry Advisors who graduated, expressed her gratitude for the skills gained by participants in the training programme “One small task can make a huge difference. Cultivating a safety culture is a small but significant step,” she said.
The graduation of 54 industry representatives and the launch of a second phase of the OSH Master Trainer Programme in Sri Lanka highlights the importance of prioritizing a safe and healthy work environment for all workers nationwide. The initiative also creates a platform for effective communication, coordination and cooperation between workers, their representatives, and employers.