“While we work in extreme heat, our male bosses work in air-conditioned rooms.” Exploring the health and safety of garment workers in factories in Bangladesh

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Authors: Shaharior R Razu, Md K Hasan, Mahfuza Z Ela, Nishana A Nishu, Rakesh Sikder, Md A Rahman, and Sanjoy K Chanda
Page Range: 121-130
Published in: International Public Health Journal, 14#2 (2022)
ISSN: 1947-4989

Table of Contents

After the Rana Plaza collapse and the fires in several garment factories, the health and safety of the Bangladeshi garment workers has emerged as a priority issue. This study aimed to compare the health and safety standards of garment workers in the export processing zones (EPZ) and non-export processing zones (non-EPZ) in Bangladesh. We followed a cross-sectional qualitative research design and conducted in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) to gather information from participants. A total of 37 workers, line managers, production managers, industry owners, gatekeepers, canteen managers, welfare officers and service holders were interviewed, and the data were inductively coded and analyzed thematically. Findings suggest that the health and safety standards of the EPZ industries, compared to the non-EPZs, were much improved in terms of workplace environment, medical facilities, protective equipment, mental health, and food, water, and sanitation facilities. Although participants from both the EPZ and non-EPZ factories expressed satisfaction with their safety standards after the recent accidents, there were dissatisfactions with the existing health management facilities for workers. We conclude that work health and safety (WHS) standards, especially in non-EPZs, for the workers need an improvement in congruence with the existing labor laws in Bangladesh.

Keywords: Health, safety, workers, export processing zone (EPZ), garments industry, Bangladesh