Sri Lankan Tea Industry Welcomes Increased Health and Safety Capacity

The first year of the partnership between the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Ministry of Labour, to embed good health and safety practice in tea plantations recently came to fruition. At the end of October 18 tea estate personnel graduated from the Advanced Certificate Course on Occupational Safety and Health for Plantations.

The personnel from 5 Regional Plantation Companies* (RPCs) were from a variety of roles, including estate managers, assistant managers, medical assistants, welfare officers, senior factory officer, ISO officer and field officer, and significantly two of the candidates were female.

At the start of the year the ETP were approached by WUSC to build a programme specifically for the tea sector in order to secure long-term change. The ETP worked closely with experts from NIOSH to ensure that the course was completely relevant to issues and structures found at tea estates, and Regional Manager for Sri Lanka, Dushy Perera also advised given his background as a tea estate manager.

The comprehensive training was split between classroom activities and on site field demonstrations. Participants leant about Sri Lankan law and the obligations a company has, to provide safe and healthy environments for workers. They were also shown how to conduct site audits and risk assessments, and ways to mitigate identified risks. Participants also learnt how to set up and run Occupational Safety & Health Committees, and ways to raise awareness of health and safety issues in the workplace.

On returning to their respective estates, the qualified participants will take ‘ownership’ of Occupational Safety & Health and will be responsible for ensuring that standards improve.

Jim Delaney, Project Director, WUSC, explained the benefit of working with an industry body, “I was very impressed with the ETP’s OHS training materials from other countries which we had access to. Individually Dushy’s long experience in the tea sector, that you can only learn through being in the field and as a manager of a tea estate, was also invaluable. What’s really encouraging is that we have already been approached by other Plantation Companies about the prospect of enrolling staff on the next course.”

*Bogawanthalawa Plantations, Elpitiya Plantations, Kahawatha Plantations, Kelanivalley Plantations, and Watawala Plantations.