Work performance and safety and health for workers will soon be upgraded at the wood processing sector, once a one-year project on “Improving an Occupational Safety and Health at Wood Processing Sector and Timber Legality Definition”, led by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, is concluded in the framework of FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade) initiative, as announced during the workshop on 24 February 2015, at the Guest House of the Ministry.
The meeting brought together approximately 40 key participants from Labour Management Department, Department of Forest Inspection, Department of Industry, Department of Forestry in Planning and Cooperation Division, Department of Hygiene and Promotion, Department of Transport, Department of Environment, Department of Labour Protection, Lao National Commerce and Industry, Lao Furniture Association, Lao Wood Processing Industry Associations, and other private sectors and relevant agencies, both at national and provincial levels, to share the project details and gain the commitment from all agencies.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Phetsavang Sounnalath, Deputy Director General of the Labour Management Department, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, said ‘it is necessary to improve occupational safety and health for workers and environment at workstation in the wood processing sector, as it is perceived to be one of the high risks of work accidents and occupational diseases, as most Lao labour force being offered jobs are equipped with limited education and poor people who might have limited knowledge on how to prevent and protect themselves caused by unsafety work practices’. ‘By engaging in the FLEGT process, we contribute to the process of defining timber legality as part of the current negotiations between Lao PDR and the European Union (EU) on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement for FLEGT to promote legal timber trade and sustainable forest management’, he added.
‘The legality of timber definition goes beyond timber harvesting, but include the entire wood supply chain from the forest to export of the timber products’, said Mr. Heiko Woerner, senior international adviser of the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT process (ProFLEGT). ‘It extends to cover health and safety of employees and their families, minimum age established for persons involved in hazardous work, formal contract creation, fairly paid and treated in conformity with national law and international conventions, and the like’, he added.
The legal definition of timber forms an important component of Timber Legality Assurance Systems that are part of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). VPAs are trade agreements between the EU and timber producing countries, aiming to promote legal logging and its associated trade. The partnerships ensure that only legal timber products enter the EU market, promote good forest governance and law enforcement in the producing countries and take into account social and broader environmental considerations.
Lao PDR is one of the countries that has started to negotiate a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPAs), a trade agreement with the European Union, with assistance from the GIZ project Support to the Lao EU-FLEGT Process (ProFLEGT).
ProFLEGT is a joint initiative of the Lao Government and the German Development Cooperation. It is working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (through the FLEGT Standing Office under the supervision of the Department of Forest Inspection, DOFI), Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, as well as other Government agencies, civil society organisations, academia and timber processing industry.
You can download the press release HERE