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

Gokaldas India

The WRC’s investigation found that, at the time of this tragedy, the factory was in violation of numerous state regulations regarding staff qualifications and equipment for onsite childcare and emergency medical assistance, and that, if the factory had complied with these requirements, the child’s death might well have been avoided. In light of these findings, as…

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I-Cheng (Cambodia) Co., Ltd.

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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Style Avenue S.A.

Style Avenue was found to have multiple and repeated labor rights violations, including forced overtime, illegal terminations, verbal abuse by management, failure to respect freedom of association, locking workers in the factory, excessive heat, and unsanitary conditions.

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Industrias de Exportacion (INDEX)

The WRC conducted a general assessment of labor rights compliance at INDEX, an apparel manufacturing facility in Honduras that is owned and operated by the company Grupo Beta. At the time that the WRC undertook the investigation, the factory was disclosed as a supplier of collegiate apparel by adidas, Hanesbrands, Inc. (under the Champion and Gear for Sports brands), Knights Apparel (acquired in February 2015 by Hanesbrands), Under Armour (under the Under Armour by Gear for Sports brand), VF (under the Majestic and Jansport brands), and 289C Apparel.

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Thai Garment Export 5

The WRC’s assessment of Thai Garment Export, which was launched in May 2013, identified violations of Thai law and international labor standards in the following areas: occupational health and safety including excessive heat levels, inadequate sanitary facilities, safe drinking water, excessive noise levels, lighting levels, fire safety; freedom of association; hours of work including involuntary…

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Tex-Ray Swaziland PTY Ltd.

The WRC launched its investigation in response to a complaint from a Swazi union federation representing workers at the plant. The complaint alleged that Tex-Ray workers were sickened en masse in an incident of acute chemical poisoning in September, with hundreds of workers requiring treatment at local hospitals and with some suffering serious and lasting…

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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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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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