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

Sinolink Garment Manufacturing

The WRC launched an emergency assessment of Sinolink in response to a worker complaint in August, 2004. The investigation found serious violations of worker rights in the following areas: freedom of association, including collusion with state police to violently squelch lawful associational activities; health and safety, including workers being locked in the factory overnight without access to first aid supplies; verbal and physical harassment and abuse; inappropriate use of casual employment status; forced and improperly compensated overtime, including forced 24-hour shifts; and access to sick leave and maternity leave.

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PT Panarub

Based upon information from Adidas, OCAA, local non-governmental organizations, and our own preliminary research, the WRC identified a number of areas of concern for investigation. These included: Legally Mandated Benefits; Freedom of Association; Occupational Health and Safety; Psychological and Physical Abuse of Employees; Arbitrary Firings and Forced Resignations; Hours of Work and Wages; Use of the Contract Labor System, and the Imposition of Improper Expenses on Workers.

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Double Star

The WRC has been working since November 2003 to correct code of conduct violations at the Double Star factory in Thailand. The WRC assessment identified serious code of conduct violations pertaining to freedom of association, wages, hours of work, and occupational health and safety.

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Calypso

During July and September of 2006, the WRC received three separate complaints from worker representatives concerning three factories in Central America owned by a single multinational apparel corporation, known as the Argus Group. In each case it was alleged that workers who had associated with a trade union had been fired illegally. Other areas of concern included occupational health and safety and overtime.

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Lian Thai

The WRC undertook an Assessment of Lian Thai in response to a complaint from workers alleging a range of code of conduct violations, primarily in the areas of collective bargaining, the provision of benefits, homework, and occupational health and safety.

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Grupo M/Codevi

After two years of efforts to remediate major worker rights violations, the Grupo M/Codevi zone has undergone a remarkable transformation. As detailed below, these improvements include cessation of violations of workers’ associational rights, recognition of an independent trade union, and negotiation of a collective bargaining accord — a level of compliance with codes of conduct and international standards on freedom of association that is rarely seen in Haiti.

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Fair Textile

The assessment was initiated in response to multiple complaints made by employees of these facilities, primarily concerning the areas of freedom of association and occupational health and safety.

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Far East Garment Textile

The assessment was initiated in response to multiple complaints made by employees of these facilities, primarily concerning the areas of freedom of association and occupational health and safety.

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First Apparel

The assessment was initiated in response to multiple complaints made by employees of these facilities, primarily concerning the areas of freedom of association and occupational health and safety.

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PT Dae Joo Leports

The International Labor Organization (ILO), in a 1998 publication, noted that “hours of work, overtime and wages, occupational health and safety, leave, provision of food and transport, social security and the special needs of women workers,” in addition to inadequate access to health care and restricted associational rights, are problems characteristic of export processing zones. In Indonesia’s export processing zones, and in the KBN’s North Jakarta branches in particular, some of these problems are starkly visible.

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