FLA Annual Report Reveals Health and Safety Violations

In its 2007 annual report released Dec. 3, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) published data on the results of unscheduled factory inspections, which revealed that health and safety violations were the most common type of reported noncompliance.

As part of FLA’s Independent External Monitoring (IEM) process, independent, FLA-accredited auditors conducted the surprise inspections in 2006. The inspections included more than 110,000 employees at 147 factories worldwide and resulted in a total of 2,511 noncompliance issues.

“Despite the extensive remediation efforts of FLA-affiliated companies, the 2006 IEM findings clearly indicate that Health and Safety issues continue to be pervasive around the globe,” the report stated.

Following the IEM process, the FLA companies must fix noncompliance issues, carry out an internal monitoring process and develop a corrective action plan. If necessary, FLA staff may make follow-up visits or conduct verification audits to determine that the company is working to solve the noncompliance issues.

“Every problem that is discovered must be corrected in a comprehensive manner,” said FLA board member Craig Westemeier. “And whenever possible, it is supplemented with training and other forms of education and tools that will help in making the changes sustainable.”

76 Percent of Safety Issues Classified as “Substantive Benchmarks”

Of the health and safety noncompliance findings, 76 percent were classified as substantive benchmarks, which constitute direct violations of code provisions. Evacuation procedures, safety equipment, personal protective equipment, chemical management and ventilation/electrical/facility maintenance issues represented the most common types of substantive benchmark noncompliance findings.

Fifteen percent of the health and safety findings fell into the category of procedural benchmarks, indicating faulty systems or processes that could eventually lead to code violations. The remaining nine percent were listed as “other” noncompliance issues that are not explicitly covered by FLA benchmarks.

Monitors discovered an average of 37.4 noncompliance issues in South Asia, the highest average per IEM visit. Southeast Asia produced an average of 18.9 noncompliances while in Europe, Middle East and Africa, the average was 14.8 per visit. East Asia averaged 12.4 noncompliance issues and the Americas had an average of 11.4 per visit. Several factors, including the monitors’ familiarity and experience with the auditing instruments and requirements, may have influenced the findings.

In addition to investigation data, the FLA annual report also provided information concerning the labor compliance programs of 38 affiliated companies and updates on FLA special projects and the new Enhanced Licensee program. This is the fifth such report FLA has published in an effort to maintain public transparency and accountability.

“I am very pleased by the trends documented in this year’s report, which shows continued growth both in the number of major companies affiliated with the FLA and their level of commitment as well as in the FLA program itself,” said FLA President and CEO Auret van Heerden. “All of these factors together are a strong indicator that we are making a real difference in improving the lives of workers in factories around the world.”

The annual report can be accessed on the FLA website, www.fairlabor.org.

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