OHSAS 18001: How can Malaysian Workers participate?

From OHSAS 18001:2007:

  • Participation and consultation
    The organization shall establish, implement and maintain a procedure(s) for
    the participation of workers by their:

    • appropriate involvement in hazard identification, risk assessments and determination of controls;
    • appropriate involvement in incident investigation;
    • involvement in the development and review of OH&S policies and objectives;
    • consultation where there are any changes that effect their OH&S;
    • representation on OH&S matters.

    Workers shall be informed about their participation arrangements, including who is their representative(s) on OH&S matters.

  • OHSAS 18001 demands that worker’s participate in decisions on OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety). (Regrettably, probably starting from 2017, ISO 45001 might give workers less leverage.) But before we gullibly believe in a real participation of workers in OH&S, we should understand the rights of employees in emerging economies in general. How can workers in emerging industries participate in OH&S? In order to participate in anything, you not only need rights, you also have to know these rights and have to be able to use these rights.
    Probably clause in OHSAS 18001 cannot be put into practise too well anyway in regions where unions are busted. We should pay more attention to the conditions for the implementation of work safety standards in the emerging economies. In these times, any sweat shop in countries whith cheap labour gets certified for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 50001 and OHSAS 18001. But how reliable are e.g. OHSAS 18001 certificates in regions where workers (or their representatives elected in secret ballots) do not participate in audits and therefore cannot tell auditors what really is going on in their company?
    I fear that the certification auditors (Conformity Assessment Bodies, CABs) e.g. in Malaysia certify even those companies, where employees don’t know anything about their tasks described in clause In contradiction to the standard, the employers don’t tell the employees about clause Worse, workers cannot participate well in OH&S if their unions are busted. But there is hope. Let us have a look into the activities of labour unions in Malaysia:

    […] Organizing in the electronics industry
    In 2013, IndustriALL set up a steering committee on ICT Electrical and Electronics to lead the work in the sector and discuss strategies on MNCs [MultiNational Corporations], trade union networks, GFAs, organizing, union rights, precarious work and specific industrial policy.
    In 2014, a five-year project supported by the European Commission was launched in cooperation with the GoodElectronics network. It focuses on organizing electronics workers in the ASEAN region, of which 30 per cent are women, including outsourced workers, temporary workers, migrants and students. Last year, over 600 trade unionists from IndustriALL affiliates in Indonesia (FSPMI and Lomenik), Malaysia (EIWU and EIEU coalition), Thailand (TEAM), Vietnam (VUIT) and Taiwan (ROCMU) were trained in organizing.
    Concrete results have already been achieved. In Malaysia, EIEU Northern region has succeeded in organizing more than 900 workers at an electronics MNC despite strong resistance and union busting tactics by the management. It is the first time the union has negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that includes migrant workers. This year, IndustriALL will expand the project to the Philippines where the electronics industry is expected to grow significantly in the country’s export processing zones over the next three to five years. […]