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

ITIC Apparel

The WRC’s investigation found that ITIC Apparel violates the Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance’s requirements in the areas of wages and hours, freedom of association, harassment and abuse (including sexual harassment), legally mandated benefits, and occupational health and safety.

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Kwangduk Langgeng (Formerly Kolon Langgeng)

The WRC successfully protected the rights of employees during the closure, a highly contentious process which involved attempts by factory management to avoid severance payments to employees, lock out workers who resisted these moves by the company, and to blacklist employee union representatives.

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Eagle Speed Marketing

The WRC began its investigation at Eagle Speed after receiving a complaint that more than twenty workers were being confined by the management in a room in the factory because they had objected to being demoted from their usual production jobs to so-called “general administrative” work, which included cleaning the factory.

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Hugger de Honduras

The WRC launched investigations concerning Hugger and Vision Tex in response to worker complaints alleging that the factories, which closed without warning, failed to pay workers legally mandated severance and other terminal compensation. The WRC determined that Hugger and Vision Tex illegally denied workers a combined total of more than two million dollars in compensation.

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Gildan Dortex

The WRC launched an investigation of Gildan Dortex, in Guerra, Dominican Republic, in August 2009 in response to a worker complaint. The ensuing investigation documented serious violations of freedom of association including repeated threats and intimidation against workers who were forming a union affiliated to the federation FEDOTRAZONAS.

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Lajas

The WRC’s investigation found credible evidence of violations of relevant laws in the areas of wage and hour, freedom of association, sale of work tools to employees, and medical leave.

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LTU Apparel/British Thai

The WRC conducted its assessment of LTU Apparel in response to complaints received in May 2008 from employees alleging violations of Thai labor law, and buyer and university codes of conduct, primarily concerning respect for freedom of association.

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Garib & Garib

On February 25, 2010, a horrific fire occurred at the Garib & Garib sweater factory in the Gazipur district of Dhaka. Twenty-one workers, 15 of them women, suffocated to death and dozens were seriously injured.

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Productora Clinimex

The investigation identified noncompliance with the Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance’s requirements in the areas of freedom of association, legally mandated benefits, wages and hours (with respect to voluntary overtime and non-poverty wage), harassment and abuse of employees, and occupational health and safety.

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Propper International / Suprema Manufacturing

The WRC’s investigation found credible evidence of violations of relevant laws in the areas of wage and hour, freedom of association, sale of work tools to employees, and medical leave.

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