Health Protections for Factories during Covid-19

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To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Ben Hensler
Date:April 14, 2020
Re:Health Protections for Factories during Covid-19

Please find here recommendations the WRC and a network of occupational health experts have developed for protecting garment workers from transmission of Covid-19 in factories that remain in operation during the pandemic. WRC and the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network (MHSSN) are providing these recommendations as resources for factory owners; brands, including university licensees; worker representatives; and other health and safety advocates. The recommendations were developed by MHSSN coordinator Garrett Brown, a former top official of California’s division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

As you know, many factories have closed or suspended production, whether as a result of shutdowns ordered by governments as a public health measure or due to cancellations of orders by brands responding to the collapse of consumer demand.

Some factories, however, remain in operation—most prominently, those that are now producing personal protective equipment (PPE), including facemasks and medical gowns. Some of these factories are owned by university licensees. For example, Fanatics is manufacturing facemasks at a factory it owns in Pennsylvania, and Fruit of the Loom and Hanesbrands are producing PPE at factories they own in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

By manufacturing such PPE, these factories can supply much-needed goods and also support employment for garment workers. Urgent priority must also be given, however, to the infection control measures needed to prevent factories from becoming a vector for transmission of Covid-19 among garment workers themselves. That is why the WRC is supplying these recommendations.

With respect to the licensee-owned factories mentioned above, initial reports received by the WRC indicate that measures are being taken to protect workers from these risks.

In other cases, the WRC is receiving reports of factories that remain in operation but are not taking meaningful steps to protect workers. The WRC is gathering additional information about these concerning situations and, where possible, will engage with relevant brands, factory owners, and worker representatives to address them. Our recommendations are current to date but may be updated as the situation develops.

Please contact us if you have any questions regarding these recommendations.