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

Kwangduk Langgeng (Formerly PT 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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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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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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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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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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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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Darong Printing and Embroidery

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.

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TOS Dominicana

The WRC found substantial, credible evidence that serious violations of domestic law and university codes of conduct have occurred at TOS Dominicana. These violations include the unlawful coercion of workers to sign new employment contracts and complaint waivers reducing workers’ employment rights and benefits, forced and unpaid overtime, failure to pay the legally mandated premium…

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Empresas T&M

The WRC initiated the assessment of Empresas T&M in February of 2007. The assessment identified a number of violations of the provisions of applicable labor rights procurement policies and of domestic law. Violations were documented in the areas of legally mandated terminal compensation and leave, occupational health and safety, overtime, and freedom of association. Factory management was cooperative during the assessment process and agreed to take steps to address many of the instances of non-compliance in each area.

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