New IHA guide explores good practice in labour and working conditions

Almost two million people are employed by the hydropower industry worldwide. As well as engineers, administrators and sustainability specialists, hundreds or thousands of construction workers are often employed in a project’s development phase.

All workers should enjoy labour rights protected by law and are entitled to safe, reasonable and fair working conditions, whether employed directly by the developer or by a contractor.

To help developers, operators, contractors and sub-contractors manage labour and working conditions, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) has now published a new guide.

The How-to Guide on Labour and Working Conditions is based on the internationally recognised Hydropower Sustainability Tools. The publication can provide those managing labour with sector specific strategies to support their workforce throughout a project’s life cycle.

Tom Streather, the author and Technical Director, Social Safeguards at Mott MacDonald, said: “This guide recognises that labour issues faced in the sector can be complex due to large construction workforces, long work schedules and the use of multiple contractors. Many employees typically come from remote nearby communities, so they rightly have high expectations from projects, both as employees and local people.

"Moreover, in addition to the moral imperative for providing a safe and healthy workplace where workers’ rights are upheld, there is also a strong business case. The level of investment needed to implement an effective labour management system is relatively small when compared to the commercial returns from improved project performance.

"To address these challenges and maximise improvement opportunities, this guidance draws from hydropower project experience to offer practical approaches related to managing, monitoring and improving labour conditions.”

The guide covers human resource policies, recruitment, occupational health and safety, non-discrimination and gender, workers’ accommodation, staff training and capacity building and grievance redressal mechanisms among other themes.

Adhering to the good practise guidelines outlined in the publication will help to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, protect workers from labour rights breaches, and achieve positive workforce-management. This can bring benefits beyond the project and strengthen relationships with local communities and contribute to a project’s ‘social licence to operate’.

Dominik Godde, Managing Director at H2GO Consult GmbH, said: “Hydropower projects are often realised in remote areas. For local people they can provide a unique opportunity for improvement of livelihood and capacity building. The IHA How-to Guide Labour and Working Conditions will be a great help for the various stakeholders to comply with international labour good practice and contribute in a sustainable way to the workers’ wellbeing.”

The International Energy Agency reports that of the 11.5 million people working in the renewables sector, hydropower is the third largest employer with almost two million people working in the industry. With more growth projected for the sector as the global energy system decarbonises, it is important that there exists clear industry guidelines on labour and working conditions for any current and future labourers.

Download the How-to Guide on Labour and Working Conditions

Read about the Hydropower Sustainability Tools and Good Practice on Labour and Working Conditions.

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