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A shipyard in the Chittagong region of Bangladesh has seen a tie up with a German company dramatically increase health and safety for its workers.

Since partnering with German firm Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), accidents at Western Marine Shipyards (WM) have been slashed by 99%.

Just three years ago, the 3,500 strong workforce saw about 1,000 injuries each month.

The tipping point was an accident which saw a welder working without personal protective equipment (PPE) electrocuted. This saw WM bring in a health and safety adviser, and create its own H&S policy.

Delivering training and PPE for all staff, a strict accident reporting process and preventative measures, it was the instigator for the public/private partnership with GIZ. This added another layer, however, to maintain and improve the health of the workforce.

The first step was increasing health provision – including the creation of a staffed on-site clinic. A part-time doctor and two paramedics were also brought in to attend to the local community.

With the partnership with GIZ coming to an end at the start of the year, the improvements have effectively changed the company culture. WM's technical director, Arifur Rahman Khan, said:

"The first thing is that when you do any job you ensure the safety is assured for all the workers – that's the top priority."

Now, sight of the WM managers dressed in overalls and hard hats, announcing the latest work order with a traditional keel laying ceremony, will likely resonate louder than the striking mallet to many.

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