Workplace Health and Safety

Photo of workers hand protected by metal glove. Photo by ILO in Asia and the Pacific

Photo by ILO in Asia and the Pacific

Despite the existence of national and international laws that protect workers’ right to safe and healthy working environments, factory conditions remain unsafe across the garment industry. Some factories lack proper safety equipment for workers or expose them to hazardous chemicals. Others have unsafe electrical wiring, which increases the risk of fire—a danger often compounded by a lack adequate alarm systems and escape routes. And some factories, particularly in Bangladesh and across South Asia, are structurally unsound, which increases the risk of a building collapse like the one at Rana Plaza in 2013, which killed 1,137 workers.

Ensuring that factories have safe working conditions has always been part of the WRC’s investigative process. The WRC investigates worker reports of safety violations, from overheated factory floors to a lack of sprinkler systems, and presses brands and factory owners to ensure these violations are corrected.

The Bangladesh Accord

The WRC had been urging multinational apparel brands to improve health and safety in Bangladesh garment factories for years when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in 2013. Following that tragedy, the WRC helped lead the creation of The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the first modern legally-binding commitment that requires brands to allow independent inspections of their supplier factories and to pay for crucial safety repairs. Over 2.5 million workers in 1,600 factories are covered by the Accord.

Thanks to the Accord, more than 100,000 safety repairs have been made at hundreds of factories across Bangladesh—and at least 50 extremely unsafe factories were evacuated, any one of which could have been the next Rana Plaza.

The WRC continues to provide strategic and logistical support in implementing and enforcing the Accord through our role as a witness signatory on the Accord Steering Committee, and through support to our labor and NGO allies.

Related Factory Investigations

I-Cheng

The WRC’s assessment of I-Cheng found violations in the areas of: (1) wages and hours, including payment of a probationary wage that is below the legal minimum, and unlawful involuntary overtime; (2) gender discrimination, including an explicit policy of hiring men on contracts of shorter duration than those under which the company hires women; (3) freedom of association, including the establishment of and compelling membership in a company-controlled labor union, unlawful unauthorized deductions of union dues from workers’ wages, and the illegal retaliatory termination, in May 2014, of 243 employees who were members of an independent union; (4) statutory paid sick leave, including failure to pay such legally-required benefits to employees; and (5) occupational health and safety, including heat levels so excessive that they regularly cause employees to faint on the job.

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I-Cheng (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

The WRC’s assessment of I-Cheng found violations in the areas of wages and hours; gender discrimination; freedom of association; statutory paid sick leave; and occupational health and safety.

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BKI, S.A.

The WRC’s assessment of BKI identified noncompliance with the Ordinance’s requirements in the following main areas: (1) wages and hours, (2) abuse, and (3) occupational health and safety.

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Zongtex Garment Manufacturing

Since initiating an investigation in response to worker complaints, the WRC has documented violations at both Zongtex’s main factory in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a second Zongtex-owned factory in Pochentong, Cambodia that appears to operate as a “hidden,” unregistered subcontractor to the main facility. Among other violations of university codes of conduct,…

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Kin Tai Garment

The WRC’s assessment of Kin Tai, initiated in March 2013, identified a number of serious labor rights violations in the areas of: (1) employment contracts, including illegal employment of workers on short-term contracts and as casual labor; (2) wages and benefits, including failure to properly provide legally required bonuses and paid leaves; and (3) occupational health and safety, including failing to provide employees with necessary protective equipment.

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Alamode, S.A.

The WRC found continued non-compliance with the City of San Francisco’s Ordinance in the areas of payment of legally-mandated health care benefits, payment of wages, hours of work, legally-mandated terminal benefits, gender discrimination, harassment and abuse, occupational health and safety and freedom of association.

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F&D, S.A. de C.V.

In 2009-2010, the WRC was contacted by F&D workers who had recently formed a union affiliated to the SITS, a multi-factory union. The WRC documented serious violations of workers’ freedom of association at the facility. These included coercion, threats, harassment, and bribery of workers to induce them to resign from the SITS union, the formation of a company-sponsored union, and other acts of discrimination against the SITS union and those employees who were its members.

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Industrias Sinteticas (INSINCA)

The WRC’s assessment at INSINCA found violations in the areas of wages and hours, statutory paid leave, freedom of association and occupational health and safety.

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Ali Enterprises

A horrific blaze at Ali Enterprises killed more than 250 people on September 12, 2012. This is the deadliest factory fire in the history of apparel manufacturing and one of the worst industrial disasters ever. Barred windows and locked exits were primary contributors to the vast death toll. The factory had no meaningful fire safety protections and the building itself was illegally constructed.

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C.J.’s Seafood

After conducting interviews with workers, the WRC found grave and systematic abuses of the rights of this highly vulnerable workforce, including grossly excessive hours of work, severe and constant harassment and psychological abuse, wages far below the legal minimum, oppressive living conditions, discrimination based on national origin, and threats of violence aimed at preventing workers from reporting these abuses to regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

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