Workers need a safe working environment

The search of the global garment and sportswear industries for the lowest costs comes at a high price: the health and safety of workers. After more than a century of industrial experience and development of national regulation and international conventions, workers continue to lose their health and lives while stitching our clothes.

Occupational Health and Safety

That is why occupational health and safety (OHS) are a top priority in the struggle for better working conditions in the garment industry. This ranges from minimum standards in housing and food provision to the risk of death, serious injury and occupational diseases. Workplace exposures to toxic agents, noise and repetitive motion and structural neglect of the safety of buildings continue to cause injuries and take lives. Also are workers, the majority of which are women, vulnerable to sexual, verbal and psychological harassment and violence.

Deadly Incidents

World-wide interests in worker safety in the garment industry has grown considerably since the three workplace disasters that shook the world in 2012 and 2013: the factory fires in Ali Enterprises and Tazreen Fashions in Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2012 and especially the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013. Thousands of garment workers were killed and injured.

These terrible incidents have increased the public and political pressure towards creating a safe and healthy working environment. One positive step forward is the establishment of the binding in Bangladesh in the aftermath of Rana Plaza. The disasters have also shown that a corporate-led voluntary, commercial system of auditing does not do enough to ensure a safe workers' environment. Better regulation, inspection and implementation of existing legislation and conventions and binding Enforceable Brand Agreements are needed. Above all, truly sustainable safe working conditions can only be reached if workers can address these issues freely themselves, without fear of dismissal.

The current Accord is due to end May 2018. But there is a follow-up 2018 Transition Accord available that brands can sign onto. This means that we are campaigning for as many garment brands as possible to do so. See here which brands did and did not sign the 2018 Accord.

Our goal is to make sure that incidents like Rana Plaza will no longer happen. But they do, and governments, brands, retailers and employers should fulfil their obligations to ensure workers receive full and fair compensation for their medical costs, loss of income, and pain and suffering. Those responsible for breaches of workers' safety should be held to account. Read more here about the need to create an employment injury insurance system.

A call for change

We are calling for:

Governments of garment producing countries to create and implement strong national OHS policy to prevent workplace violations.

Brands and retailers to take action to prevent OHS incidents in their supply chains through transparency and remediation of existing health issues and to pay full and fair compensation if incidents occur.

Employers to take immediate action to rectify health and safety issues and stop putting pressure on workers with unreachable production targets.

Learn More

  • Evaluation of H&M Compliance with Safety Action Plans for Strategic Suppliers (September 2015), updatedJanuary 2016 and April 2016
  • a report by the on safety and freedom of associations in Bangladeshi factories (2015)

Rana Plaza

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013 is the worst ever industrial accident to hit the garment industry.

Employment Injury Insurance

Read more about the need to establish an employment injury insurance system in Bangladesh.

name tag


Ali Enterprises

The Ali Enterprises Factory burned down in 2012. Read more about the struggle for compensation for the affected families.

The Bangladesh Accord

Read more about the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and how it came about. Go to the campaign page here.