Our Commitment to Worker Safety in Bangladesh
Walmart is committed to safety in our supply chain worldwide. Walmart’s Responsible Sourcing program is dedicated to verifying that suppliers are complying with our rigorous standards for suppliers; strengthening labor and environmental practices in factories and farms producing products for sale at Walmart; and implementing policies and initiatives that treat workers with dignity and respect.
Given the unique safety problems facing the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh, we recognize the need for heightened attention and programs that ensure adequate building maintenance and fire safety infrastructure.
That is why in 2013 we announced several enhancements to our Responsible Sourcing program in Bangladesh. These include: (1) partnering with Bureau Veritas (BV), a world leader in assessment and certification services to conduct in-depth safety inspections at all factories in Bangladesh that produce goods directly for Walmart suppliers; (2) providing broad-based fire safety training to factory workers; and (3) donating $1.6 million to the newly created Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Academy in Bangladesh. We are also building upon our existing programs in Bangladesh. For example, we are improving jobs for more than 17,000 workers in 34 factories in Bangladesh through our Lean manufacturing program. We are also continuing our work on empowering the women who work in Walmart’s supply chain factories through our Women in Factories program. This program is teaching over 60,000 women critical life skills.Additionally, as members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, we are providing all of our assessment reports to the Fair Factories Clearinghouse, so they can be shared with other Alliance companies to improve the industry's safety efforts through collaboration.
Overview of the Factory Assessment Process
The building and fire safety factory assessment process requires engineers to visit all factories producing goods directly for Walmart suppliers multiple times during the assessment phases. Additional detail on these phases can be found at In-Depth Factory Assessments.
If an immediate risk to worker safety is identified at any time during the factory assessment process, Walmart will immediately order our suppliers to stop production of Walmart merchandise at the facility; notify the factory owner, Bangladesh Garment and Manufacturing Export Association (BGMEA) and government authorities of the need to take action; and require remediation before production is allowed to resume.
Phase 1: Safety Risk Pre-Assessment
Team: A civil engineer and an electrical engineer
- Identify issues that require immediate attention.
- Prioritize those factories that require an immediate full structural safety appraisal.
If issues identified pose an immediate risk to worker safety, Walmart will instruct our suppliers to stop production of Walmart merchandise until the factory remediates the problems. We will also notify the appropriate authorities of the risks.
Phase 2: Initial Electrical and Building Safety Assessment
Team: 6-12 civil and electrical engineers Purpose: Conduct an in-depth electrical, fire and building safety assessment, including:
- Evaluating the building for structural engineering issues.
- Undertaking a detailed safety analysis of the entire electrical system.
- Inspecting fire detection and response equipment.
- Gauging the effectiveness of emergency escape paths.
- Analyzing additional fire safety hazards.
- Delivering fire safety training to the factory's workers and management.
- Interviewing the factory management to ensure the factory has complied with all safety requirements.
Next steps: The team prepares a thorough report that outlines the findings from the assessment, including photos and notes for remediation, which is shared with the factory owners. The factory management then develops a comprehensive remediation plan.
Phase 3: First Follow-up Assessment
Team: Engineers (number contingent upon remediation requirements) and factory management
Purpose: BV engineers review the factory's progress in accomplishing the remediation plan developed following the Phase 2 assessment.
After the remediation plan is developed, a BV team will revisit the factory and conduct a comprehensive assessment of safety improvements made against risks identified during the Phase 2 assessment. The inspectors will document completed improvements, instances of partial progress and outstanding issues.
Next steps: The factory continues its work on the specific projects pointed out in BV's Phase 2 and Phase 3 reports.
Phase 4: Second Follow-up Assessment
Team: Engineers and factory management
Purpose: To verify that the issues identified in the follow-up assessment report have been addressed.
Increasing Transparency in the Supply Chain
We recognize that no single organization or company can bring lasting change to the ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh. True reform requires the industry, non-governmental organizations, worker organizations and government to work together for change. We believe that transparency is vital to reform and helps all stakeholders understand and address factory conditions. Because of this, Walmart is posting results of its enhanced safety assessments in order to provide information to partners committed to real change.
Through our work with the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, funds are available (if needed) to help factory owners make needed remediations and to support workers who may be temporarily displaced by safety remediation projects. More information on these funds, as well as the Alliance and its programs, can be found here.