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Providing health and safety training for migrant workers

July 17, 2019

There are an estimated 61,000 fishery crews for commercial fishing in Thailand, with two-thirds of these workers being migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia. Many fishery crews do not have much fishing experience and do not receive proper job training before joining the sector. Stella Maris, a Freedom Fund partner in southern Thailand, has worked with fishers and seafarers for many years, and over the course of this experience, realised that injuries and accidents are often due to limited knowledge and lack of adequate training for fishers on health and safety. Over the years, to address such concerns, Stella Maris provided first aid boxes and outreach to fishers on vessels, as well as providing medical care in their port-based centres. Through outreach and service provision to fishing workers, Stella Maris could establish a relationship of trust and also provide information on labour rights, migration matters and, when necessary, human trafficking and forced labour.

In 2018, Stella Maris decided to actively engage with vessel owners about a more detailed health and safety training. Stella Maris shared their health and safety concerns with the Songkhla Fishery Association and explained how vessel owners have a duty to their employees to reduce risk and prevent accidents. To improve safety for workers, and reduce business risks for owners, Stella Maris suggested that vessel owners allow workers to be trained on first aid and other health and safety matters. Not only would this be useful for employers and employees on vessels, it would enable compliance with one of the requirements of the Work in Fishing Convention that Thailand had promised to ratify. This Convention requires crews on commercial fishing vessels to be trained on first aid, as well as other requirements regarding working and rest hours, standards of accommodation and food and water requirements.

Stella Maris developed a health and safety curriculum with technical support from the Faculty of Medicines of Songkhla Nagarin University and the Hospital of Songkhla. After discussion of the training curriculum with the Songkhla Fishery Association, many vessel owners agreed to their fishing crews being part of the training program. Stella Maris, vessel owners, the fishery industrial association and the local health service provider are now working together to train fishery workers in Pattani and Songkhla provinces. The course is mixed-method between theory and practice so workers can learn from simulation exercise. At the end of the training, workers will receive the training certificate. At the end of 2018, five trainings had occurred and 150 workers were trained.

Vessel owners have stated that they appreciate these activities as it helps them to prepare for compliance with new laws and regulations. If workers are not trained, the business could not operate. Workers themselves are very keen to participate, as many have experienced a near-serious injury or heard of very serious accidents happening to other fishing workers.

In addition to these specific first aid trainings, in 2018 Stella Maris continued with outreach and training to fishers on labour rights (wages, working hours, what constitutes forced labour), human trafficking and health and safety. For example, in just one quarter, Stella Maris reached 13 fishing vessels, training 171 fishers, all of whom were Cambodian.

The Freedom Fund’s Thailand hotspot aims to significantly reduce slavery in the Thai seafood industry. Learn more.

Photo credit: Lisa Kristine/Freedom Fund

Written by
The Freedom Fund