Garrett conducts workplace health and safety inspections for the State of California and has been coordinator of the Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network with projects in Mexico, Central America, Indonesia and China since 1993.
The integrity of the occupational health and safety profession is under threat as it is being drawn into “certifying” that sweatshop factories in global supply chains in the developing world are safe and meet international standards for protecting workers on the job.
Words fail at times like this – another garment factory fire in Bangladesh; 112 dead and 150 injured; another round of despair and anguish for the workers and their families; another round of denials by international garment brands that they bear any responsibility; another round of promises by the brands and their contractors that they will “do better” while refusing to acknowledge that it is their “profits first and foremost” production system that has led to fire after fire after fire.
It happened again in Bangladesh in December 2010 - a fire in a garment factory killed 29 workers and hundreds were injured as they were suffocated, burned alive, trampled in stairwells, or leapt to their deaths from the 9th and 10th floors - because four of seven exit doors were locked.
I must say that I'm amazed at the near-hysteria of some of your readers about having an OSHA leadership that actually tries to do its job rather than just process VPP applications and praise corporate declarations of their "commitment to excellence."
Millions of workers in China’s contracted factories, in the “export processing zones” in Central America, Asia and Africa, and in the maquiladoras on the U.S.-Mexico border continue to work in dangerous, unhealthy workplaces.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health â€” Cal/OSHA â€” leads a schizophrenic existence. On one hand, the agency is considered by many to be the “premier state plan” among the 21 states with state OSHAs. On the other hand, it's been too starved of resources over the past decade to be able to rush to the rescue of the state’s 17 million workers.
China is now finalizing a new “Labor Contract Law” to protect workers in the global economy’s “biggest factory floor,” but the proposal is hitting a wall of opposition from transnational corporations who are threatening to move their operations to other parts of Asia.
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