From The Editor | May 31, 2013

Workplace Tragedies — Are We Willing To Pay To Fix The Problems?


By Bob Johns

Bob Johns, Robert Johns, associate editor

Once again, apparel manufacturing workplace safety was in the news with a break-shelter collapse in Cambodia. Luckily no one was killed in this latest incident, however, 23 people were injured. Earlier in May, a Cambodian shoe factory had a ceiling collapse that killed two workers and injured another seven. Last September saw a fire in a Pakistani garment factory that killed 289 people. In November a fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh killed 112 people. And, the largest single workplace accident in history took place in Bangladesh on April 24th. In this incident, a building housing several garment factories collapsed, killing 1,126 people that we know of. These are just a few of the tragedies befalling the people who make the products we use every day.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the safety of these workers? In the U.S., we have OSHA and workers unions working together to create and enforce safety regulations to ensure a safe working environment. Additionally, buildings are regularly inspected and construction is regulated through permits and building regulations. Even these measures cannot guarantee 100% safety and compliance, but it helps immensely. Many of the countries where retailers source their goods have little if any regulation when it comes to workplace safety and worker’s rights. Corruption is rampant within the governments issuing permits, often leading to payoffs to ignore safety guidelines and building codes. Many countries just do not have the regulations on the books or are reluctant to enforce them.

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