Introduction The socio-economic development of any country is dependent on the health, safety and well-being of its working population. In its development collaboration projects over the years, Finland has prioritised the improvement of working conditions and thereby the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases. Occupational health and safety collaboration has taken place with East Africa in particular, but also with South-East Asian countries.
Method Collaboration began as the provision of training for OSH experts, and later evolved into either country-targeted or regional programmes for developing the OSH infrastructures of the countries. These programmes included the capacity building of the actors involved. The practical collaboration with East Africa was realised together with the OSH Inspectorates, and the Institutes of Occupational Health in the countries, in which these were available. The financial support of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs made it possible to run the programmes.
Results In 1973–2009, collaboration grew from individual training courses for OSH experts in Zambia, Tanzania and later in Kenya, to more comprehensive projects that covered legislation development, policy and strategy planning, and support for practice-oriented research, training, information dissemination, and the provision of services. In the 1980s, the ILO-run Strengthening of Factories Inspectorates projects introduced a wider approach to OSH activities. At the end of the 1980s an East African Regional OSH programme was carried out with follow-up symposia in 1992, 1995 and 1998. Later in 2008–2009, a regional follow-up programme on OSH was conducted in East Africa. Many of the trainees of the time were or are now in key senior positions in occupational health and safety administration or other relevant organisations, including enterprises.
Discussion Among the most important features of collaboration and the lessons learnt during this are the comprehensive content of collaboration; maximising the use of networking, internationally, nationally and locally; and ensuring the continuity of the activities. This means that a committed staff is essential. The long-term development impact of expert training and training of future OH-OSH leaders was deemed highly positive.
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