Laos has been experiencing rapid industrialisation over the past two decades and the demand for skilled labour is growing faster than Lao workers can upskill.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) issues are a key area of trade union concern in the workplace. Poor working conditions and unsafe factories are considered normal. Knowledge of safe handling of equipment, asbestos, and other chemicals is poor.
This year, many senior trade union officials within the Laos Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU) are retiring. To pass on their knowledge of OHS they teamed up with Union Aid Abroad – APEHDA to train their junior officers in asbestos eradication and workplace safety.
A three-day Training of Trainers was held on 15-17 June this year in Vang Vieng, Vientiane Province. Among the participants were 14 junior trade union officers, six of whom were women. The trainees heard from Mr. Khamchan Sivanthong, Deputy Director of Labour Protection Department of LFTU and Mrs. Vilada Phomduangsy, Country Manager of APHEDA Laos.
The objectives of the training were:
- To build a stronger cohort of junior LFTU members to replace the retired senior OHS officers in their organisation
- To ensure that OHS trainers can use the handbook to help conduct OHS training and use the information in the handbook as the basis for the lessons.
- Allow the trainees to demonstrate their skills by participating in activities.
Trade unions and OHS
The trainer introduced the trade union perspective on OHS, the role of the LFTU in campaigning for OHS, and how to manage OHS in the workplace.
The training session covered the theory and practice of conducting workplace assessments and body mapping, such as identifying common patterns of health problems amongst workers in a particular workplace, doing the same or similar job. A section of the training covered the dangers of asbestos, how to identify it, and ways to minimise risks to workers who come into contact with asbestos.
Most of the participants are aware of OHS and have heard about asbestos, but they had never attended formal OHS training before. This training was very helpful for them to build their confidence in becoming OHS officers.
The Asbestos. Not Here. Not Anywhere project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), Australian trade unions, and members of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.