WRC Report: Fire Safety at Optimum Fashion/VF (Bangladesh)

To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova
Date:December 5, 2013
Re:WRC Report: Fire Safety at Optimum Fashion/VF (Bangladesh)

Please find at this link a report on fire safety practices at Optimum Fashion, a factory in Bangladesh producing collegiate apparel for VF Corporation (owner of VF Imagewear and Jansport). The technical fire safety work was carried out for the WRC by a leading fire safety engineering firm, Hughes Associates Europe.   
The WRC’s inspection identified numerous serious fire safety hazards at this facility, including inadequate means for workers to escape the factory in the event of a fire, insufficient emergency lighting, structural flaws that would cause deadly smoke to propagate throughout the factory if a fire occurs, and other safety violations that could lead to injury or death. The WRC has made a series of recommendations for corrective action, which VF has agreed, in principle, to undertake. A detailed corrective action plan, with clear deadlines, is pending. 
While we are encouraged by VF’s commitment to remedy the hazards, it concerns us greatly that VF took no action to identify and correct the threats to worker safety at Optimum Fashion until confronted with the WRC’s findings – a concern heightened by the fact that VF tried, at one point, to prevent the WRC from carrying out the inspection (until universities intervened). The identification of multiple serious fire hazards at this factory underscores the grave threats to the safety of garment workers in Bangladesh, including, as this case demonstrates, workers making collegiate apparel. 
We will update you on this case as developments warrant. 

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW, 5th Floor 
Washington DC 20005 
ph  202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
[email protected]