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Realizing occupational safety and health in the SME sector



Dr. Champika Amarasinghe 

World Day for Safety and Health at Work falls on April 28

by Randima Attygalle

With COVID-19 health and safety protocols gaining priority, other work place related health and safety measures seem to be taking a backseat in certain industries. Waging a battle to raise credit to run their businesses and keep employees’ home fires burning in the pandemic-hit world, occupational safety and health (OSH) is largely undermined in small and medium (SME) enterprises.

In a bid to address OSH concerns of the SME sector, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), affiliated to the Ministry of Labour in collaboration with the Small Enterprises Development Division (SED) of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, launched a project to create awareness among industry owners. The three-month project which was launched last November and successfully completed in February this year, was funded by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The project identified 200 industries from Gampaha and Kalutara Districts. The Divisions of Bulathsinhala, Kelaniya, Katana, Weweldeniya, Bataleeya, Beruwala, Panadura, Negombo and Katana were selected for it. Among the chosen industries were garments, brassware, statue-making, batik, cane, jaggery-making, spices, envelope-making and small scale motels – all of which employed less than 20 people.

“The contribution of the informal sector including SMEs to GDP is as important as the contribution made by sectors such as garments, tea and foreign employment,” says Director General, NIOSH, Dr. Champika Amarasinghe. However, the informal sector which includes SMEs doesn’t come within the health and safety legislature of the country, she notes.

“This is a serious concern as occupational hazards, disability levels and other accidents in this sector do not get reported. Absence of compensation becomes a double whammy. Unlike in the case of large industries, OSH in the SMEs is hardly spoken of and that is the very reason for ILO to steer this project,” she added.

The National Policy Framework for SME Development introduced by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce recognizes SMEs as the ‘backbone of the economy’ accounting for more than 75% of the total number of enterprises, providing 45% of the employment and contributing 52% towards GDP. The SME Policy Framework aims to ‘promote high potential, promising SMEs and improve business environment to allow them to realize their full potential in today’s globalized economy.’ The OSH project is also aligned with this.

The ILO report on the theme of ‘Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises- Invest now in resilient OSH systems ‘ issued marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, 2021 (falling on April 28) notes: ‘A sound national OSH policy and regulatory framework is essential for the protection and promotion of physical and mental health at work. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the safety and health of workers worldwide.

`The risk of workplace transmission and other associated risks, brought about by the prevention and protection measures taken, have exacerbated existing and emerging OSH risks — including psychosocial risks, poor ergonomics, exposure to chemicals and workplace accidents. This situation calls for strong national OSH policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure that working environments are safe and healthy, and that there is a clear and well-known established set of rights and duties.’

One of the major outcomes of the project is the realization of the value of `investing in OSH’ for long term benefits, points out the NIOSH Director. “The responses to the questionnaires we sent out and the risk assessments carried out by our team reflected a high degree of risk-taking behaviour among these industries. The exposure to skin irritants/chemicals, unguarded furnaces and switches, absence of personal protective equipment, poor electrical and mechanical safety and unsafe machinery was notable.”

Despite the limitations triggered by the pandemic including quarantining of some of the participants and certain areas being isolated, the implementation of the program was a success, remarks Dr. Amarasinghe. “We conducted a series of on-site as well as on-line workshops which were well received. Industry owners and their employees were educated on OSH supporting structures and management policies.”

Development of the National Safety and Health Management System by NIOSH which will extend to SMEs is an ambitious outcome of the program that will enable cost effective OSH interventions including certification systems. “There are very simple yet effective OSH interventions which do not require a lot of money and one of the objectives of the project was to convey this message,” says Dr. Amarasinghe.

“The National Safety and Health Management System makes provisions for SME owners to improve their workstations adhering to optimum safety standards and also to get safe-certifications at an affordable price. Getting international certifications is a costly process which the majority of the SMEs cannot afford and we are supplementing this with a local system.”

The training has also made sharing of knowledge among communities possible. “Very often within the industries we chose, there are sub-contractors to whom the good practices can be extended. In addition, these industries can appoint an employee to be responsible for OSH within their respective industries,” says NIOSH Director. It has also opened a career path to those who aspire to follow courses in OSH offered by NIOSH, some of which are equivalent to NVQ Level 4.

“Following the training, these sectors have now established a link with us and we are happy to be providing the required know-how and assist those who want to go beyond the training and equip themselves professionally with OSH qualifications,” observed Dr. Amarasinghe who added that it is one of the approaches to make this effort sustainable. Replicating the experience in other parts of the island is also envisaged by the project.

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‘Seylan Bank celebrates milestone 35 years of outstanding customer service’



Seylan Bank’s top management at the anniversary celebrations.

Having opened its doors in 1988, Seylan Bank, celebrated a milestone 35 years recently, of proudly serving all stakeholders with an unwavering dedication to excellence, a Seylan Bank press release said.

The release adds: ‘The special occasion was commemorated with a religious ceremony at the Millennium Branch of the bank with the participation of the Board of Directors, corporate management, staff and well-wishers. Dr P. Nandalal Weerasinghe, Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka graced the event and delivered the keynote address. Chairman of Seylan Bank, Ravi Dias and Kapila Ariyaratne, Director/CEO, also addressed the gathering.

‘Since the opening of its first branch, Seylan Bank has expanded into an island wide network of 171 branches, 216 ATMs, 70 cash deposit machines and 96 cheque deposit kiosks as well as many Digital Banking solutions, serving a growing client base of Small and Medium Enterprises, Retail and Corporate Customers.

‘Kapila Ariyaratne, Director/CEO Seylan Bank said, “Today we are proud of our history and excited about the future. Within the past decade Seylan Bank’s total assets, deposits and advances have grown by 300%, while our revenue has grown four times and our profit after tax has doubled. While entering the 35th year, we have recorded the highest bottom line in the history of the Bank for two consecutive years. We have polished the rich culture of innovation and customer service excellence that have been hallmarks of Seylan culture from the beginning, and are more customer focused, compliant and transparent today. Seylan Bank looks to the future with excitement, energy, strength and hope to build on our excellent foundation and achieve the vision of being amongst Sri Lanka’s leading financial service providers, helping all our stakeholders achieve their good aspirations while helping our country and our people to once again achieve economic prosperity in a sustainable manner.”

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Price decline seen in all shares across the board; fluctuating trend sets in



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

CSE trading set off on a negative note yesterday but later bounced back slightly. The reason for the fluctuating trend was attributable to stock market brokers reducing their debt component, market analysts said.

Further, shares edged- down in mid- day trade on thin volumes as the market experienced selling pressures and profit- taking, an analyst said. “The market is down as the selling trend continues, as there is a price decline in all shares across the board, combined with the month ending, followed by margin calls, market analysts added.

Amid those developments both indices moved downward. The All- Share Price Index declined by 51 points and S and P SL20 went down by 11.87 points. Turnover stood at Rs 861 million with one crossing. The crossing was reported in NDB, which crossed 470,000 shares to the tune of Rs 20.2 million, its shares traded at Rs 43.

In the retail market some companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs. 103.8 million (640,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 86 million (660,000 shares traded), ACL Cables Rs 83.4 million (one million shares traded), Sampath Bank Rs 76.4 million (1.3 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 38.8 million (6.2 million shares traded) and JKH Rs 32.9 million (235,000 shares traded). During the day 43.98 million share volumes changed hands in 12746 transactions.

It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in NDB and Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings. Mixed interest was observed in Sri Lanka Telecom, Lanka IOC and Tokyo Cement Company nonvoting, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, LOLC Finance and Renuka Agri Foods.

The Food, Beverage & Tobacco sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to Browns Investments), while the sector index lost 0.49 per cent. The share price of Browns Investments recorded a loss of 10 cents, coming down to Rs. 6.40.

The Capital Goods sector was the second highest contributor to market turnover, while the sector index decreased by 1.77 per cent. Sri Lanka Telecom, Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings, NDB and Lanka IOC were also included among the top turnover contributors.

Meanwhile, in the Treasury bond market, yields were up at open on yesterday, dealers said.

A 01.07.2025 bond was quoted at 31.00/30 per cent yesterday, up from 30.75/31.00 per cent on Monday. A 15.09.2027 bond was quoted at 28.25/29.00 per cent, up from 28.10/60 per cent from Monday. The Sri Lanka rupee opened at 322/327 against the US dollar, steady from 322/325 a day earlier, Central Bank sources said.

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SLT-MOBITEL shines at Effie Awards 2022



Reiterating its commitment in demonstrating innovative campaigns that have not only set a benchmark in the industry, but also contributed to making a difference for consumers at large, SLT-MOBITEL, the National ICT Solutions Provider was bestowed with two Bronze and a Merit award at the Effie Awards 2022 held recently. SLT-MOBITEL was the sole Telco provider to win awards under the Internet/Telecom category.

Organized by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), the Effie Awards Sri Lanka edition is part of the world-renowned international awards programme, recognising all forms of effective local marketing communications that contribute to a brand’s success. The coveted event is highly anticipated and celebrated by the marketing fraternity, both locally and globally, as the most distinguished honour in the industry. The Effie Awards Sri Lanka 2022 marked its 13th edition and focused on the creative work and effectiveness of campaigns during turbulent times.

SLT-MOBITEL campaigns that won Bronze awards were the ‘Triple Buddy and ‘Non-Stop Lokka’. For the SLT-MOBITEL Mobile Triple Buddy campaign’ the company introduced a competitively priced bundle for most famous social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube, thus targeting teens and young adults. Adding to the resounding success of the campaign was the company’s brand ambassador, Falan Andrea. Her immense social media following was utilized to spread the message along with SLT-MOBITEL’s integrated media rollout which targeted every person from across Sri Lanka.

In addition, the Nostop Lokka, campaign for SLT-MOBITEL Mobile addressed competitor pressure on data access and apps. ‘Non-Stop Lokka’, offered nine (09) apps, enabling customers from all categories to connect with the most famous social media applications in a hassle-free manner. The campaign was immensely successful, with outstanding results and continued during the year positioning SLT-MOBITEL as an innovative leader.

SLT-MOBITEL Fixed received the Merit Award for its campaign SLT-MOBITEL Fibre under the theme ‘Revolutionizing the Internet with SLT-MOBITEL Fibre’. SLT-MOBITEL, recently enhanced its Fibre facility, which is Sri Lanka’s first, fastest and widest premium connectivity bandwidth to 200Mbps download speed and 100Mbps upload speed. It made the customer experience uninterrupted, with instant downloading and uploading, even with multiple devices. Also, streaming videos or watch other livestreams in Ultra HD, enjoying lowest latency for gaming and providing crystal clear UHD picture quality for PeoTV were the value additions to SLT-MOBITEL Fibre users.

Conceptualizing and partnering SLT-MOBITEL for the campaigns were Phoenix Ogilvy and Ogilvy Media.

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