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Issue #1658      October 1, 2014

Vietnam’s workplace safety

The willingness of Vietnam’s unionised companies to invest in improving workplace health and safety and comply with the law would shame some Australian bosses, an Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) expert has found while holding training courses there.

“I saw evidence that they are prepared to innovate and invest for safety,” AMWU Education Officer Brian Devlin said of his duties, which included an inspection of new factory machinery in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Expansion is rapid and in some places they will build a new line beside a functioning line, innovating and taking lessons for improving production, including improving occupational health and safety.”

Devlin conducted a basic OH&S course and two “train the trainer” advanced classes in the cities of Hue and Can Tho as part of the AMWU’s ongoing relationship with the Vietnamese Union of Workers in Industry and Trade.

He said the classes over a fortnight included senior management of some state-owned companies, as trade unions had an integral role in running many Vietnamese enterprises.

Unionists came from industries including brewing, fertilisers, steel, petroleum, natural resources and agricultural machinery.

“There has been a major improvement in the approach to OH&S over the past seven years since I first visited, the legislation is being more strictly adhered to,” Devlin said.

Devlin noted that the minority of women on the courses were particularly pro-active and articulate on improving safety knowledge and practice.

But workplace accidents still plague Vietnam, with six of the 19 participants in the second course Devlin ran having had a death at their workplace in the previous year.

“There are still issues the AMWU can assist with, including the widespread use of asbestos in domestic and industry settings in Vietnam,” he said.

Next article – Outrageous attack on press freedom

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