WRC Factory Investigation

Darong Printing and Embroidery

Factory: Darong Printing and Embroidery

Key Buyers: Columbia Sportswear, Gap, Reebok, VF

Year: 2009

Case Summary

The WRC has achieved substantial remediation of significant occupational health and safety hazards and other violations of university codes of conduct at the Darong Printing and Embroidery factory in Cambodia. The report of our assessment of this facility is attached. 

The WRC initiated its investigation at Darong after receiving allegations from workers that excessive exposure to chemicals used in the factory’s screen-printing operations were causing serious health problems for workers. 

The WRC’s inquiry confirmed that significant health hazards were present in the factory; however, we are glad to be able to report that Darong management has worked cooperatively with us to implement remedial action and to develop a sustainable approach to ensuring a safe workplace. 

Darong, which provides embellishment for garments manufactured at a number of other Cambodian garment factories, was disclosed by Reebok in 2008 (when the WRC’s inquiry began) as a supplier for the latter’s “Heisman by Reebok” line of collegiate licensed apparel. The factory reportedly also has among its current customers Columbia Sportswear, VF and Gap, Inc. 

As our report notes, with regard to its employment practices and labor relations, Darong is, in certain respects, among the better-performing factories we have encountered in the Cambodian garment sector. However, its operations include screen-printing, which involves considerable use of chemical solvents and fixatives, and prior to the WRC’s assessment Darong management was not taking proper measures to protect workers from chemical exposure. 

At Darong, the WRC’s investigators encountered a factory where every month nearly half of the workforce was treated at its onsite health clinic, most of them with symptoms characteristic of exposure to chemical solvents. Workers at the factory handled potentially hazardous chemicals without proper training or, in some cases, even basic information about the substances they were handling. Many employees lacked basic protective equipment such as aprons, boots, gloves and proper masks. Ventilation was inadequate. 

However, acting on the WRC’s remedial recommendations, management has taken substantial steps to address these issues by installing additional exhaust and ventilation equipment in areas where chemicals are handled, issuing new protective equipment to workers, and improving its facilities for treatment of employees exposed to harmful substances. Importantly, the company and the union representing the factory’s workers have also cooperated in the establishment of a joint health and safety committee comprised of members of management and elected worker representatives. The WRC believes that such a committee can play a crucial role in ensuring that all workers and managers are properly informed about health and safety issues and that the factory maintains and builds on the improvements made to date. 

The WRC will continue to monitor the workplace environment and work with factory management to complete implementation of the WRC’s recommendations.

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