ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network foundation

The ASEAN Occupational Safety and Health Network (ASEAN-OSHNET) and its predecessors have a long history, extending back to the 1980s. It is a network of 10 ASEAN countries’ government OSH institutions, OSH departments of the ministries of labour (MOL), or respective bodies or institutions in the jurisdiction of the MOL.

Its origin can be traced from the ILO Programme for the Improvement of Working Conditions and Environment (PIACT) in 1976.

An ILO seminar, held in 1984 for the ASEAN countries, recommended the establishment of a regional centre to collect and disseminate information in ASEAN, and to manage research and training for the improvement of working conditions and environments.

The idea to develop a project network for improving working conditions was agreed by the First ASEAN Labour Technical Working Group Meeting, held in October 1984 in Manila, and the proposal was approved by the Fifth ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting, held in Manila at the same time.

In 1995, the ASEAN Secretariat obtained United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funding to conduct a feasibility study on the establishment of an ASEAN training centre and network for the improvement of working conditions and environments.

Offshore inspection by management team onboard of a self-propelled unloading barge in reclamation project in Indonesia.

Establishment and development

Feasibility study was conducted in 1996, and a workshop to review the results was convened in Manila in October of the same year, attended by the head of the Philippine National OSH Centre and national experts from seven ASEAN countries. They agreed upon the following recommendations:

  1. To establish ASEAN-OSHNET among the national OSH institutions in ASEAN
  2. To form an ASEAN-OSHNET Coordinating Board, comprising the heads of the national OSH centres or their equivalents – which report directly to the ASEAN Subcommittee on Labour Affairs (ASCLA) – to oversee the operation of ASEAN-OSHNET, and the planning and implementation of its Plan of Action.
  3. That the ASEAN-OSHNET Coordinating Board will meet once a year, and its immediate task will be to establish the secretariat of the network.
  4. That ASEAN-OSHNET be considered a flagship project of the ASEAN Economic Charter
  5. To include six projects in the Proposed Four-Year Plan of Action.

The development history of ASEAN-OSHNET can be divided into four stages:

  1. Foundation – establishment of the network, defining the mission and objectives, building infrastructure, and agreeing on division of work (2000 – 2005).
  2. Policy, and substantive capacity development – earning official recognition by the ALMM, focusing on programme areas, content and methods, training capabilities, and learning networking practices (2006 – 2010).
  3. Revitalizing – evaluating the achievements, identifying strengths and challenges, showing results, raising the OSH profile, and expanding scope and coverage (2011-2015).
  4. Integration, regional and global – combining objectives from several policy dimensions for the overall development of work life within the framework of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) vision 2025, and the ALM labour ministers’ Work Plan 2016 – 2020, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in collaboration with the Plus Three and global partners, ILO, ISSA, the IALI, and ICOH.

Indonesia’s leading role

From the beginning, the development of the network has been continuous and progressive. After 15 years of activity ASEAN-OSHNET is well established, active, and productive. An extensive report, Turning Visions into Action, was published in 2015 for the 15th anniversary of the network,
and it documented full achievement of the objectives set in the foundation meetings.

Indonesia ministry of manpower held the 20th ASEAN Coordinating Board Meeting (CBM), which is held annually by rotating hosts among Southeast Asian countries, in Yogyakarta in 2019.

Speaking at the opening meeting, Directorate General of Labor Supervision and Occupational Safety and Health secretary Budi Hartawan said the meeting aims to collect and disseminate information, research and training to improve the environment and working conditions in ASEAN.”

It was the third time Indonesia had become host and chairman of the CBM, after 2000 and 2010.

Status and constitution

The foundation of the ASEAN-OSHNET is based on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the members’ OSH administrations from the year 2000.

Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam have formally recognized the ASEAN-OSHNET as an important instrument for the development of ASEAN OSH policies and practices in the region, and have delegated key tasks in the implementation of the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM) OSH strategy.

In 2006, OSH was added as the sixth priority area for ASEAN. The ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM) has formally recognized ASEAN-OSHNET as an instrument for the ASEAN OSH policy implementation, such as in 2017 when they adopted a Statement on Improvement of Occupational Safety and Health for Sustainable Economic Growth.

ASEAN-OSHNET can demonstrate high productivity and impact at the level of policy support for the prevention and management of occupational hazards, accidents, and diseases. This has been done through the implementation of the network’s own, OSH strategies, development of strategic planning and national OSH programmes, development of OSH framework and infrastructures, development of research, information, human resources, and their competence through training, and guidelines and methods for good practices in OSH and in inspection.

Provision of occupational safety for workers at a jetty construction in Bintan, Indonesia

References

About think archipelago

Since 2012, think archipelago has provided concise business and management publication of various topics to cater for the stakeholders at Archipelago Strategic & Partners Indonesia (ASPI). As it expands into reaching wider audience, the ASPI media subsidiary now also features insightful articles covering environmental and social issues, art studies, history, accompanied by critical review by ASPI professionals.

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