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15 March 2014

Report from Dhaka Conference held 24-26 February 2014

The Collegium Ramazzini, Harvard University and the Dhaka Community Hospital Trust hosted a conference entitled "Sustainable work/sustainable development, safety and health awareness training to improve working conditions in the garment, tannery and construction industries of Bangladesh" at the Dhaka community hospital on February 24-26, 2014 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was chaired by the Chairman of Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, Dr. Quazi Quamruzzaman and Dr. David Christiani from Harvard University representing the Collegium Ramazzini. Collegium Fellow Ronald Dobbin coordinated the organization of the conference on behalf of the Collegium Ramazzini.

The conference was highly successful in addressing current occupational health issues in Bangladesh, drawing over 170 attendees who participated and engendered excellent discussion. There was broad representation from government, employers, trade unions, and NGOs in BD, and WHO (Dhaka Office). Experts from Malaysia, Korea, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Holland, and the US participated. Collegium Ramazzini Fellows included, in addition to Christiani and Dobbin, Knut Ringen, Krishna Gopal Rampal, Anders England, and Margrit von Braun.

Additional co-sponsors included TerraGraphics International Foundation and the Society for Occupational Safety and Health and the Service Employees International Union from the US. The United Food and Commercial Workers from the US sent two speakers to address worker training.

Plenary sessions addressed a health risk assessment approach, special populations including gender issues in the workplace, and reports on successful prevention programs for both the workplace and community. Topics ranged from occupational lung disease to worker training to life-cycle in construction to safety and health in the context of decent work and hierarchy of control. Perspectives were given by Bangladeshi worker representatives and NGOs. An Action Plan for next steps was drafted.

Discussion followed two tracks:
Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health (EOSH)
Construction Occupational Safety and Health (COSH)

Three central needs emerged from the conference: (1) there is a lack of valid data on occupational risks and official data greatly underestimate risks; (2) there is a lack of expertise in occupational safety and health; and (3) there is no compensation scheme for injured workers.

The main outcome of the conference was the announcement of a new non-profit, tentatively named the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health Research and Advocacy to be created, and largely funded locally as part of the Dhaka Community Hospital Trust. Its first activities will likely be more data characterization of occupational risks and the establishment of a basic safety and health training program for all workers, initially focused on the construction industry.

An additional positive outcome is that Fellows made excellent connections with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research and the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research in Bangladesh (in Dhaka.) Both of these latter Centres have connections with Swedish institutions and have strong interest in data collection and analysis of occupational injury and disease in Bangladesh. We also made very positive connections with the German Aid Agency, GIZ and their project on injury prevention in shipbuilding.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for the week of October 11 in Dhaka. It will be organized jointly by Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, Collegium Ramazzini Fellows and the International Social Security Association (ISSA). The plan for this conference is in three broad areas:
1) Dhaka Community Hopsital Trust will introduce its new Center for Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health Research and Advocacy
2) Collegium Ramazzini will address scientific aspects of occupational and environmental health, including initial estimates of occupational safety and health risks based on household survey data from Bangladesh;
3) ISSA will present best practices for injury prevention and introduce models for national compensation programs for injured workers and their families.

There will be a long-term opportunity for collaboration between the Collegium and the Dhaka Community Hospital Trust and other safety and health institutions in Bangladesh, with focus on two areas: providing scientific support, and helping to organize exchange programs so that occupational and environmental health researchers in Bangladesh can spend time to strengthen their expertise at foreign institutions, and in return, for foreign scientists to spend time in Bangladesh. Fellows interested in supporting these efforts in Bangladesh should contact project coordinator Ronald Dobbin.

7 March 2014

Death of Fellow Hemantha D. Wickramatillake March 2014

The Collegium Ramazzini mourns the unexpected and premature loss of our colleague Hemantha D. Wickramatillake from Sri Lanka. Hemantha passed away this week while teaching in Kuala Lampur, Maylasia.

Dr. Wickramatillake was the former Director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in Sri Lanka and, at the time of his nomination to the Collegium Ramazzini, was one of only two fully-trained occupational medicine physicians in his country, a nation of 20 million people.

Dr. Wickramatillake earned his MD at the University of Ceylon, his Master of Science in Environmental Health and Occupational Medicine from the National University of Singapore and his PhD in Occupational Health at the University of Adelaide.

He held a number of academic appointments including at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, the University of Moratuwa and the University of Colombo in Sri Lanka, the University of Adelaide, Australia and Drexel University, USA.

Hemantha contributed to a number of international projects including extensive work following the devastating Tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2005. He was appointed by the United Nations as one of the 5 experts from Asian countries to evaluate the NGO collaboration in disaster reconstruction. He also worked with numerous other international organizations including UNICEF, USAID, the World Bank and various ministries in Sri Lanka.

Hemantha was married and was a great sports enthusiast, basketball being his favorite. He was elected to the Collegium Ramazzini in 2010 and attended two editions of Ramazzini Days, in 2011 and 2013. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and the wide network of patients and colleagues who held him in such high regard.

1 March 2014

Save the Date > Ramazzini Days 2014 > October 24-26

The dates for Ramazzini Days 2014 have been set - mark your calendars for October 24-26 in Carpi, Italy. This year's meeting will include an additional session on Friday afternoon. Plan to arrive in Bologna the morning of the 24th and depart the late afternoon of the 26th or morning of the 27th. Online registration will open in July 2014.

06 January 2014

CR to provide safety and health awareness training to improve working conditions in the garment, tannery and construction industries of Bangladesh

Dhaka Community Hospital and Collegium Ramazzini, with assistance from the International Social Security Association (ISSA), propose to undertake a training of Bangladeshi public health and medical practitioners, business and labor leaders, related NGOs and others interested in evidence-based protection of the health of Bangladeshi workers and their families with practical tools they need to seek improvements, especially in the high risk Textile/Garment-making, Tanneries, and Construction Sectors. This training course will be held in Dhaka on Feb. 24-26, 2014

This training comes in response to local requests for intervention to begin to correct the deplorable safety and health conditions in these industries, which were highlighted by the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment plant in April 2013.

The outcome will be the development of a consensus-based action plan that local practitioners can implement. The training is expected to be followed by - and feed into - a larger international conference being convened by ISSA/ILO in October focusing on strengthening the policy foundations for sustainable work and development in Bangladesh, which will reinforce the action plan.

Questions may be directed to CR Fellow Ronald Dobbin at rddobbin@att.net

Questions? Comments! Mail to: events@ramazzini.it