Respecting workforce rights

A temporary housing complex for construction workers is an example of the efforts BP in Brazil is making to achieve high standards in worker welfare

As BP prepared to embark on a $350 million expansion of its Tropical sugarcane-to-biofuels mill in Brazil in 2013, a key question facing the operation’s management was where it would house the 600 or so construction workers that would be needed to carry out the work.

The challenge was to find a housing solution that would protect the workers’ welfare. With the Tropical construction site located at least 16 kilometres away from the nearest town, transportation safety was a key consideration. Furthermore, accommodation options in the nearest cities and towns are limited, and the typical temporary accommodations provided for civil construction workers in Brazil have a reputation for poor standards.

Custom-designed housing complex

“I feel very glad to be living in a place I helped to build. Now I’m living a new experience, working at the Tropical expansion. The Canada housing complex is a lot better than I expected, given the norm in the region, and I never thought I would live here. It’s very rewarding.”
Valdimiro Alves dos Santos, construction worker
BP decided to build a custom-designed temporary housing complex for the workers a few kilometres from the worksite. The goal was to create housing that would achieve a much higher standard than is typical of such facilities in Brazil.

BP designed the complex following the recommended practices for workforce accommodation in our operating management system, and also aimed to comply with relevant Brazilian regulations, such as those covering ergonomics, working conditions and air quality.

The complex provides 8m2 of dormitory space for each worker, with bedrooms that have been designed to allow airflow for temperature control – an important consideration given that local temperatures can exceed 35°C. The site has clean water for drinking and bathing, and there are sewage treatment facilities on-site. There is also a laundry area that workers can use. Additional facilities include a recreation area, two TV rooms, a cafeteria, an outdoor movie theatre and 24-hour medical care.

Health education is a regular feature of life at the housing complex. BP has worked with a local industry organization to provide health evaluations to workers living at the complex as well as talks on health-related topics such as smoking, alcohol, drugs and oral health. Weekly meetings are held between BP leaders and residents to discuss health and wellbeing issues.

Worker welfare at Tropical

Mario Lindenhayn, BP Biofuels Brazil president, said: “Our Tropical operation was one of the first operations of its kind in the world to be certified under SA8000, the international standard for social accountability and human rights. As in many of the aspects of our work in Brazil, we are continually seeking to raise standards, which will support our drive for increasing the safety and wellbeing of all our employees and contractors.”

Tropical achieved SA8000 certification in 2011 – the same year BP bought the operation outright from its joint venture partners – after an independent audit of labour and human rights practices and subsequent steps to improve labour processes in the operation. For example, we implemented new grievance mechanisms for employees wishing to voice concerns and designed a mechanized harvesting process to replace manual harvesting where possible.

Since then, additional safety procedures and policies have been introduced, including communications campaigns aimed at raising workers’ awareness of the risks of diseases such as dengue fever and HIV/AIDS.

Tropical has also achieved the Brazilian government’s certification for labour standards, along with BP’s two other biofuels operations in the country.

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