Safety and health and audit practices in Bangladesh


Start date: 1 March, 2020 End date: 29 February, 2024 Project type: Research projects in countries with targeted development cooperation (earlier Window 2) Project code: 19-M01-SDU Countries: Bangladesh Thematic areas: Economic development and value chains, Production, industry and labour market, Lead institution: University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Denmark Partner institutions: Bangladesh University of Health Sciences (BUHS), Bangladesh Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark Team Working Life Aps (TWL), Denmark Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Peter Hasle Total grant: 4,992,320 DKK

Project summary

The fast industrial development from a low income to a middle-income country such as Bangladesh carries a risk for safety and health of the workers, which may also jeopardise the economic development. Occupational safety and health (OSH) is therefore receiving strong priority in Bangladesh. The two main measures are government regulation and international buyer CSR requirements. This project studies the audits, which are carried out to secure supplier compliance. Buyer CSR policies are criticised for window dressing with little impact on OSH realities in the workplaces. However, the actual audit practices have not been studied, and it is crucial to find ways to utilise the extensive resources used for audits in an efficient manner, securing tangible OSH improvements. The research partners University of Southern Denmark (SDU) and Bangladesh University of Health Sciences (BUHS) study the audit practices in the garment and leather sectors in Bangladesh.

The objective is to identify the audit practices and methods, which have the largest impact on the preventive OSH management in the companies. The project starts with a preliminary mapping of the audit market and its context in Bangladesh. The results are used for selection of the most important audits approaches and companies for the subsequent field studies. They include observation of 100 audits of companies, interviews with the auditors and subsequent follow up assessments and interviews in the companies of the impact of the audits. The new knowledge will be published in scientific journals and disseminated to the stakeholders, including international buyers, audits companies and the social partners as well as the public authorities. It will include advice on the most efficient use of audits, and the results will serve as a platform for systematic testing new methods for both audits and inspections.


Midterm report
The first and main activity has be the data collection, data analysis and report writing of the report on the audit market study of Bangladesh. The report builds on interviews with representatives from garment factories, buyers, audits firms and sector stakeholders. All interviews digital due to travel restrictions. The report became presented at a digital stakeholder workshop in December 2021 and has been used for further dissemination activities in 2022.

The second activity has been methods development, which included a design change from 1) observation of audits at 100 companies to digital telephone interviews with compliance and OSH managers in garment factories. A telephone interview quistionnaire was developed, pilot tested and revised. The data collection commenced in December 2021. 2) Development of methods for in-depth case studies in 10 companies. Pilot testing of the method started in January 2022, where the first field visit to Bangladesh could be organised.

A third activity is a systematic review of the international the internations audit literature, but it could be completed and submitted due to maternity leave.

1. Project organisation established. Bi-weekly management meetings. Working groups on audit market study, literature review and field study methodology established. Financial procedures agreed upon.
2. Kick off workshop organised in September 2020
3. A stakeholder workshop organised December 2020
4. Audit literature identified and assessed. Draft review paper prepared. Submission postponed due to key researcher on maternity leave.
5. Audit market study ongoing. Standards, code of conduct and multistakeholder initiatives analysed. Interviews with a large number of buyers, suppliers and audit firms as well as the organisation behind MSI.
6. Preparation of methodology for field studies. Methods manual prepared but still not tested due to Covid 19.
7. Dissemination activities: Stakeholder workshop dec. 20, presentation at Danish buyer network feb. 21, presentation at DIEH morning meeting June 21 and opened webpage:

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