Health, safety and productivity in garment in Bangladesh


Start date: 1 January, 2015 End date: 31 December, 2020 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 14-07AAU Countries: Bangladesh Thematic areas: Production, industry and labour market, Lead institution: Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST), Bangladesh Partner institutions: Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST), Bangladesh Project coordinator: Peter Hasle Total grant: 9,656,146 DKK Project files:

Project summary

The project creates new and exploratory knowledge about sustainable co-development between occupational health and safety (OHS) and productivity in the readymade garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh. The objective will be reached by studying the characteristics of the relationships between the RMG buyers and suppliers and how external pressure from buyers towards OHS and productivity improvements can be translated into sustainable advancements for the suppliers. The project is theoretically framed in an extended version of a capability maturity-model integrated with a safety maturity model.

Drawing on this model, the conditions affecting OHS and productivity will be explored by means of a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods in a baseline study of 50 firms. The result of this research will be combined with theoretical elements from OHS, supply chain management, operations management and organization theory and developed into specific recommendable methods for concerted OHS and productivity improvements.

The resulting methods will be implemented and tested in 12 suppliers. Sustainability will be tested in follow up studies. The knowledge thus gained will subsequently be disseminated to the scientific community, the stakeholders in the garment industry in Bangladesh, and Danish and European buyers. This project thereby aims at directly and indirectly (i.e. through disseminations) improving OHS practices and productivity among Bangladeshi RMG suppliers.


Project Completion Report
Occupational safety and health (OSH) is often considered as a cost factor by managers in the garment industry as well as in other industries. Yet, our research indicate that it is not necessarily so. This project shows that it is possible to integrate OSH and productivity improvements. The tool to do so is lean manufacturing methods. Lean is offering several tools, which be combined with ergonomic analysis of the workplace and applied in a participatory manner, can result in considerable improvement. The project found improvements of efficiency and quality up to 25% and reduction of muscular discomfort and pain with 20%.

However, it is not an easy process. Several involved supplier factories failed to achieve notable results as both top managers and middle managers fell back to a traditional ad hoc approach to production, and they experienced constraints by lack of or frequent job swop among qualified industrial engineers. Involvement of workers also proved to be a new and not easy task. The results indicate that the successful implementation of integrated improvement of OSH and productivity requires strong top management commitment and an efficient organisation of the implementation process as well of participation of workers and first line managers. Furthermore, support from international buyers is also crucial. The key is to develop sustainable relationships with support to development of production, different from the traditional shopping around for lowest price. As international buyers are getting more dependent on delivery on time and quality, as well as to control reputation risk, it is also in their interest to develop such durable relations.

These findings constitute the key results from a five-year project carried out in collaboration between Aalborg University (AAU) and Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST). Fifty garment factories were visited in a baseline study, which show a clear correlation between OSH and productivity. Furthermore, the project initiated lean interventions in 12 garment factories using lean methodologies to achieve integrated improvements in OSH and productivity. The study also included the collaboration between international buyers and suppliers, among others by suggesting their suppliers to participate in the intervention programme.

During the project the project facilitated completion of three PhD-studies, publication of 15+ peer reviewed scientific publications and organisation of an international scientific conference in Dhaka in March 2019.

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