Introduction: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and CERSSO collaborated to develop a new Tool Kit (TK), which became available in May 2002. PAHO already had a TK in place, and CERSSO requested that one be developed for their needs. CERSSO wanted to enable managers and line workers in garment factories to self-diagnose plant and workstation hazards and to estimate the costs and benefits of investing in occupational safety and health (OSH) as a way to improve productivity and competitiveness.
Methods: For consistency, the collaborating organizations agreed to construct the TK according to PAHO's methodology. The instrument was developed to be comprehensive enough that any user can collect the data easily. It integrates epidemiologic, risk assessment, clinic, engineering, and accountability issues, organized to include step-by-step training in: (a) performing risk assessments in the workplaces (risk factors); (b) making cause-effect relationships; (c) improving decision making on OSH interventions; (d) doing calculations of direct and indirect costs and savings; and (e) doing calculation of the overall cost-benefit of OSH interventions.
Results and conclusions: Since July 2002, about 2,400 employees and officials from 736 garment factories, Ministries of Labor, Health, Social Security Institutes, and Technical Training Institutions of Central America and the Dominican Republic have used this instrument. Systematically, they have calculated a positive relationship of the investment (3 to 33 times). Employers are now aware of the financial rewards of investing in OSH. The TK is available in Spanish, Korean, and English. In July 2003, a software program in Spanish and English was developed (180 persons have been trained in the region), which requires less time to execute with better reliability.