Covid-19: Occupational health and safety guidance

The consequences of COVID-19 global pandemic are clearly visible all over the world and will have long-term effects. Most countries around the world have reacted with some variation of lockdown and quarantine measures, all to help contain and avoid spreading the disease.

The next phase will focus on reopening countries and resuming industrial activities. In many garment production countries, this means that workers are returning to their factories, rightfully worried about their wellbeing. Another scenario is that a factory may not have shut down or been able to sustain certain parts of production or switch to other product groups such as making face masks. In this scenario, the protection of workers against COVID-19 is also of the utmost importance.

Keeping workers safe needs to be top priority amongst both clothing brands, their suppliers and the worker representatives. To give targeted guidance on how to keep workers safe, we have developed this discussion sheet which, in combination with our COVID-19 specific health and safety checklist, gives a comprehensive overview of what measures to consider and what to look out for in the conversation between brands and their suppliers.

Aims and structure

When evaluating what efforts are appropriate to implement, the first place to start is always to seek out the guidance provided by the local authorities in production countries. This should be considered leading and be at the basis of all efforts made at any production facility. Factories should only (re) open when this is allowed by the local authorities.

The guidance Fair Wear and Ethical Trading Initiative aim to provide here should serve as a catalogue from which to draw inspiration. With insight into the complete array of possible safety measures within a garment factory, member brands can have informed discussions with their suppliers about existing measures and potential additions to complement these.

When it comes to COVID-19, there are no definite solutions and the risk of infection cannot be eliminated completely. This risk will remain as long as people keep gathering, but the goal is to put efforts in place that minimise this risk to the furthest extent possible, given the circumstances.

Implementing health and safety measures for COVID-19 has far-reaching implications, and we seek to provide insight and clarity into these. Factories and member brands should work together to ensure workers are as protected as possible. Guidance from local authorities should be considered leading, however if the standards in the production facility are higher than the regulation, then the higher standard should be attained.

Keeping workers safe while keeping factories running to secure income for workers and stable delivery of orders is in everyone’s best interest.

Structure of the discussion sheet

  • A look at the considerations of factories and brands
  • A look at the universal health and safety measures
  • The aspect of social dialogue and gender lens focus
  • A situational breakdown of precautionary measures
  • External sources of contamination Link to further resources

Download the Covid-19 Factory Health and Safety Discussion Sheet here.

Download the accompanying Covid-19 Health and Safety Measures Checklist here.