Workplace health and safety, and business training

A case study of the light engineering sector in Bangladesh

Asad Islam, Gary S. Fields (Cornell University), Ummul Ruthbah, Margaret Triyana

Small and micro enterprises (SMEs) account for a large portion of production and employment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), so the development of this sector has important aggregate development consequences. SMEs often face constraints that prevent them from growing: the entrepreneurs may lack technical knowledge, financial capital, and strong business practices. Such firms also lack proper safety measures, resulting in work related injuries and fatalities and other long run consequences for workers.  This research project has two main objectives. First, we focus on how the decent work environment training can improve the work environment – especially in addressing safety issues within the firms and among workers. Second, we examine the potential impact of the combination of business training and access to finance with OHS on firms. This project takes advantage of BRAC’s program, Pro-poor Growth of Rural Enterprises through Sustainable Skills-development (PROGRESS) supported by European Commission.

In this project, we focus on the impact of intensive training and information on decent work environment among workers and firms. We partner with BRAC, which also collaborates with different trade associations, to understand and evaluate the workplace safety and awareness in the light engineering (LE) sector in Bangladesh.  In order to understand the causal effects of information and training on the health and safety at the firm level, we randomly assign firms in LE sectors into two treatment arms: T1: Managers/owners of firms receive intensive training on occupational health and safety (OHS). T2: OHS + business training and financial linkages, C: the firms in the control group receive no training. We examine a range of outcomes related to workers’ safety and health issues, working environment and safety standards of firm, cost, business growth, investment and profitability.

The research is supported by DFID and European Commission.