Improving occupational health and safety in the Balkans


Promoting a culture of prevention was the theme of a recent IMF occupational heath and safety seminar in the Balkans.

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: The International Metalworkers' Federation implemented the second phase of its occupational health and safety project for affiliates in the countries of the former Yugoslavia from June 23 to June 26. The project, which is carried out in close cooperation with the IMF Spanish affiliate MCA-UGT and the Spanish Trade Union Institute of Cooperation for Development, was launched in April 2008 in Belgrade and will continue until 2010. It targets the steel and non-ferrous sectors and aims at training health and safety shop-stewards and improving health and safety at the workplace.       

Prevention was the main theme of this second seminar. Earlier this year the IMF had conducted a survey on health and safety standards in these sectors that had revealed a high level of accidents often due to lack of proper training and awareness on OHS hazards, and low trade union involvement in prevention planning and evaluation.  

Health and safety experts from MCA-UGT and the Spanish steel companies association UNESID participated in the seminar and gave enlightening presentations on risk analysis and prevention techniques, using visual aids such as videos with subtitles in the local language. Strong emphasis was put on the fact that commitment to OHS could only be generated by involving everybody in the process - trade unions as well as management. Participants also discussed organizing prevention campaigns and the cost of non-prevention, and were able to interact during the group work activities arranged as part of the curriculum.     

All the material used is being translated and will be made available to the participants and their unions for further use as an information and educational tool. As an outcome of the seminar, the participants committed themselves to start developing OHS programs locally and/or nationally and mainstreaming OHS in trade union work. 

The last step of the project will deal with collective bargaining and social dialogue, and OHS as leverage for union building. This project is carried out with the support of the Spanish agency for Development Cooperation.