Central America Health and Safety Training Project
Final Report January 2005
This report describes a health and safety training conducted in Guatemala City in December 2004. The main goals of the training were: (a) to build the capacity of the independent monitoring organizations to conduct more rigorous evaluations of health and safety conditions in the maquiladora plants in Central America, and (b) to increase the understanding of health and safety issues among community-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and unions representing maquila workers in the region, especially in the garment and textile sector. The training was a follow-up event to a four-day workshop conducted in September 2003 in Antigua, Guatemala, with many of the same participating organizations.
The project was funded by General Service Foundation (Aspen, CO), the International Labor Rights Fund (Washington, DC) and the ARCA Foundation (Washington, DC). The events sponsors were COVERCO (Comisión de Verificación de Códigos de Conducta), an independent monitoring group in Guatemala and the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network (MHSSN), with participation from the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The four-day training included 22 participants from four independent monitoring groups, two trade unions, and three NGOs from the five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. A team of three instructors from MHSSN and ILO carried out three days of classroom activities featuring interactive, popular education-style teaching methods and one field day exercise in a working garment factory. Topics were presented using small group exercises, role plays, games, and visual demonstrations that required the participants to see, hear, apply and evaluate the information.
The fourth day of the training was spent conducting field exercises in the 1,100-worker plant operated by an Asian corporation which produces garments for several U.S. clothing companies. During the plant walk-around, participants interviewed workers and supervisors, monitored noise levels, evaluated ergonomic and ventilation problems, and checked for electrical hazards. The training instructors later submitted the findings and recommendations of the participants from the field day to the plants managers.
Planning for the training lasted several months, and included a needs assessment of the participants two months prior to the training, and the development of new sections to the 500-page Spanish-language training manual used in the September 2003 training.
Pre- and post-training questionnaires showed a 64% increase among first-time participants who felt confident they could now conduct their own health and safety inspections. Participants taking the workshop for the second time had a high confidence level coming into the workshop (67%), but by the end of the workshop this level increased to 86%. Immediately following the training, participants evaluated the course content. They felt the most useful topics and activities were workers rights (56%) and chemical hazards (56%), followed by stress/harassment in the workplace (33%).
The nine participants that completed the first training in September 2003 were asked how they or their organizations have applied the information and skills obtained. All of these participants responded that they used the information/skills from the workshop in their work as independent monitors by providing training or educational materials to maquiladora workers, and by integrating the information as part of their ongoing factory inspections.
Participants suggested a number of practical follow-up training activities, including joint inspections of maquiladoras by the different monitoring groups present, technical assistance to participating organizations, and annual refresher trainings.
Follow-up trainings of this type are important for providing continual technical information and assistance regarding occupational health and safety awareness to independent monitoring organizations, non-governmental organizations and unions that work directly with maquiladora workers. As a result of training, monitors can increase the rigor and sophistication of their evaluations of health and safety conditions as part of their broader labor rights inspections of maquiladora plants in Central America. In addition, participating unions and NGOs serving maquiladora workers can better integrate health and safety information and issues into the unions factory-floor activities, and the NGOs ongoing research, workshops with workers, and advocacy campaigns.
1. Background to the Project
The training described in this report was a follow-up event to a workshop conducted in September 2003 in Antigua, Guatemala. Both of the trainings are a result of efforts between the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network (MHSSN) and COVERCO (Comisión de Verificación de Códigos de Conducta), an independent monitoring group in Guatemala. COVERCO requested technical assistance from MHSSN in the area of health and safety for its own organization, as well as those affiliated with the Regional Initiative for Social Responsibility and Decent Work in Central America (IRSTD), a grouping of Central American independent monitoring and research organizations.
The San José, Costa Rica, office of the International Labor Organization (ILO) also participated in the planning and delivery of the training. Funding to carry out the training project was secured from the General Service Foundation (Aspen, CO), the International Labor Rights Fund (Washington, DC) and the ARCA Foundation (Washington, DC).
The main goals of the training were to build the capacity of the independent monitoring organizations to conduct more rigorous evaluations of health and safety conditions in the maquiladora plants in Central America, and to increase the understanding of health and safety issues among unions representing maquila workers and NGOs supporting garment and textile workers in the region.
As a whole, Central America is one of the worlds leading areas in the production of apparel sold in the United States. Companies such as Liz Claiborne, Gap, Levis, TJ Max, Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart all subcontract apparel assembly to any of the approximately 960 maquiladora plants operating in the region.
2. Project Organization
The local coordinator for the training was Monica Segobia of the COVERCO staff. The General Service Foundation, ARCA Foundation and ILRF provided a total of $24,500 toward the cost of curriculum development, materials and equipment, transportation and housing. In addition, the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California at Berkeley contributed in-kind and professional services in the revision and reproduction of the training manual.
The training team included Garrett Brown and Michele González Arroyo of MHSSN, and Valentina Forastieri from the ILOs San José, Costa Rica, office. Team members divided up the tasks, including the development of a needs assessment, preparation of training activities and materials, and implementation of the four-day training workshop. The 500-page Spanish-language training manual and lesson plans used in the workshop are available for purchase from LOHP (2223 Fulton Street, 4th floor, Berkeley, CA 94720-5120; 510-642-5507).
3. Developing and Conducting the December 2004 Training
The 22 training participants came from four independent monitoring groups, two trade unions, two womens rights organization, and one research NGO from the five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. The countries and organizations that participated included:
The members of the IRSTD are COVERCO, GMIES, EMIH, PASE, ASEPROLA, and CIPAF.
In October 2004, Garrett Brown met with COVERCO auditors and staff in Guatemala City. Information brought back from this needs assessment showed that participants were particularly interested in acquiring additional skills to use monitoring equipment and to conduct better inspections. In addition, participants requested sessions on industrial ventilation and biological hazards.
Training Schedule and Approach
The training schedule (see Appendix 1 for training agenda) included three days of classroom activities featuring participatory training methods. These included small group exercises, role- plays, games, and visual demonstrations that required participants to see, hear, apply and evaluate the information. The session on chemical hazards was split into two levels, allowing second-year participants the opportunity to add to the basic skills gained from the previous year. All topics were presented in Spanish by the bilingual training team.
A fourth day was spent conducting field exercises in the 1,100-worker plant operated by an Asian corporation, which produces garments for several U.S. clothing companies. Gap Inc. worked closely with plant management to facilitate access to the facility for training participants. Management officials from the factory formed their own inspection team during the field day and rotated through the field exercises on the same schedule as the four teams of training participants.
Each participant in the Guatemala training received a copy of the 500-page Spanish-language health and safety training manual developed by LOHP and MHSSN in 2003, along with several new chapters developed for this training. The new topics included in the December 2004 training manual include noise, HIV/AIDS in the workplace, and international labor rights.
Pre/Post Training Knowledge Surveys and Evaluation
Training participants were asked to fill out the knowledge assessment worksheet on the first day of the four-day training and again at the end of the training. Participants indicated on the assessment if this was their first health and safety training or a follow-up training.
Prior to the training, 45% of first time participants and 67% of the second time participants who completed the pre-assessment could describe at least two ways to reduce or eliminate specific health and safety hazards in the workplace. Upon completion of the training, these levels increased to 91% and 100% respectively.
The number of first-time participants who indicated they were "confident that they could conduct their own inspections" increased from 0 to 64% in the pre- and post-training questionnaires, and for second-time participants this went from 67% to 86%. (See Appendix 3 for a complete summary of pre/post knowledge surveys.)
Training participants also were asked to provide feedback on the topics, activities, methods, and usefulness of the training itself. Their responses identified the following information as most useful: workers rights (56%), chemical hazards (56%), followed by stress/physical and sexual harassment in the workplace (33%).
In response to evaluation questions, participants said that all of the sessions were useful, but several highlighted sessions including AIDS in the workplace, risk mapping and hazard control methods. Participants gave positive feedback on the training materials and training methods as well. In terms of future activities, participants suggested more time in order to provide more depth for certain topics.
4. Key Aspects of the Field Day Exercise
The Asian-owned factory graciously hosted the participants representing unions, womens rights groups and independent monitoring organizations. The field day exercise in an operating factory is very useful in developing the skills of the participants to identify and analyze hazards and to offer suggestions to eliminate or reduce such hazards.
The training exercise at the factory went smoothly. Production continued with minimal disruption and training participants interacted with workers, supervisors and managers to obtain the information needed to complete inspection checklists. Managers, line supervisors and office personnel from the facility formed their own inspection team and completed the tasks assigned to all the teams.
5. Future Plans
Participants indicated a need for annual refresher trainings and information on additional topics. It seems logical at this point to develop a "training of trainers" workshop that would consolidate the capacity of the two trainings participants to offer their own health and safety workshops directly to maquiladora workers or other constituents in their community-based organizations.
Another idea under consideration is incorporating North American occupational health and safety professionals from the MHSSN into the teams of factory auditors from the IRSTD conducting joint inspections of plants in Central America. The MHSSN members would serve as volunteer technical advisors on workplace safety issues in the audits led and staffed by inspectors from the multinational IRSTD.
As part of the follow-up training, the organizations which had participated in the September 2003 workshop were asked to describe the impact of the first training on their activities and approach to conducting factory audits. Appendix 4 is a summary of their reports of activities between September 2003 and December 2004. All of the groups had significantly increased their attention to workplace health and safety during their plant inspections, and had also conducted their own trainings on occupational health issues, both internally and with workers and their factory and community organizations.
This training provided the opportunity for second-year participants to further enhance their occupational health and safety knowledge and skills. First-year participants also benefited from receiving basic occupational health and safety information in a practical way. As a result of training, monitors are able to include more complete and rigorous evaluations of health and safety conditions as part of their broader labor law compliance monitoring inspections of maquiladora plants in Central America. In addition, unions representing maquiladora workers and NGOs serving maquila workers are better able to integrate health and safety issues into the unions factory-floor work and the NGOs ongoing research, workshops with workers, and advocacy campaigns.
Appendices to the report (Spanish only)
Taller sobre salud y seguridad en el trabajo
Día 1 lunes 6 de diciembre del 2004
Taller sobre salud y seguridad en el trabajo
Día 2 martes 7 de diciembre del 2004
Taller sobre salud y seguridad en el trabajo
Día 3 miércoles 8 de diciembre del 2004
Taller sobre salud y seguridad en el trabajo
Día 4 jueves 9 de diciembre del 2004
Informe de la Evaluación Final
1. ¿Cuál tema o actividad le gustó más durante los últimos cuatro días? ¿Por qué?
3. ¿Hay algún tema o actividad que no le resultó muy útil? Explique.
4. ¿Tiene algunas sugerencias para mejorar este taller? (Piense en todos los aspectos del taller: materiales, temas, horario, actividades, la práctica de inspección de fábrica, etc.)
5. ¿Qué tipo de seguimiento debe de haber con los participantes después de este taller? ¿Quién debe hacerlo?
6. ¿Otro comentario?
Resultados de la auto-evaluación
nivel 1 = primera capacitación sobre salud y seguridad en el trabajo
nivel 2 = segunda capacitación sobre salud y seguridad en el trabajo
Impacto del taller de salud y seguridad en el trabajo
de septiembre de 2003 en las actividades de
los grupos de monitoreo centroamericano
Informes de los grupos entre septiembre de 2003 hasta diciembre de 2004
Coverco (Guatemala): Ha sido de mucho beneficio puesto que en las agendas que se elaboran cada día, se toman muy en cuenta los aspectos de salud y seguridad en el trabajo. Y nos de una panorámica más amplia de los problemas que antes nos veíamos a la ligera.
Coverco (Guatemala): Para Coverco ha sido enriquecedor en su trabajo de monitoreo a fábricas maquila de condiciones laborales, en donde utilizamos los instrumentos tanto técnicos (aparatos) como el conocimiento de uso de los mismos. También ha sido importante la instrucción recibida acerca de ahondar en los temas cuando se indaga sobre los mismos y no quedarse con la información verbal recibida por parte de las gerencias, sino involucrarse más con documentación y ejecutar las formas técnicas de comprobación de uso y aplicación de equipo de protección personal e implementación de políticas de salud y seguridad. Por esto estamos muy satifechos por poder aplicar estos conocimientos y al mismo tiempo agradecidos con los facilitadores.
PASE (Nicaragua): Desde el primer taller, PASE buscó fondos para desarrollar un taller para acreditar a sus monitores como inspectores en seguridad e higiene ocupacional. De esta forma, PASE ha desarrollado un manual de higiene y salud ocupacional para inspectores basado en la información suministrada por los especialistas (manual todavía en revisión).
EMIH (Honduras): Nuestra organización ha tenido mucho impacto con la reproducción del taller y la continuación de este mismo para que los trabajadores se den cuenta de la situación de cada maquila. La incorporación de algunos temas en nuestras inspecciones y fichas de trabajo nos ha servido mucho ahora vamos mucho más seguros a las fábricas a realizar las inspecciones.
EMIH (Honduras): Mejoramos nuestras fichas de trabajo e incluimos otros temas que no teníamos. Con los instrumentos de medición que nos regalaron, hicimos más profesional nuestro trabajo. Nos sentimos más seguros de hacer las auditorías y de dar capacitación sobre estos temas.
Septiembre-Diciembre del 2003:
Enero-Marzo del 2004:
Abril-Junio del 2004
Julio-Septiembre del 2004