Seven ways to cut supply chain fire risks

8 September 2013

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9 September 2013 | Will Green

There are seven ways buyers can cut the threat fire poses to supply chains and workers, according to a study.

The report, based on research carried out by Sedex and labour standards NGO Verité, shows fire safety is the biggest single health and safety non-compliance issue globally, making up almost a third of all shortcomings.

Inadequate signage, problems with emergency lighting, blocked aisles and fire exits and inadequate fire-fighting equipment were the most common problems.

The research comes against the background of more than 500 deaths over the past year in factory blazes, including garment factories in Bangladesh and a poultry plant in China.

Sedex, which carried out audits of 19,300 firms, said firms faced “major supply chain risks from unaddressed fire safety issues”.

The report recommends that buyers should:

1.    Map the entire supply chain to gain visibility of risks and opportunities to improve standards.

2.    Routinely evaluate and track supplier performance.

3.    Empower suppliers to manage their own fire safety programmes.

4.    Work with other stakeholders to develop common approaches.

5.    Ensure purchasing practices and pricing support factory renovations and safety improvements.

6.    Make sure fire safety programmes are part of other ethical sourcing initiatives.

7.    Invest in local institutions to promote workers’ rights.

By country, the research showed Romania topped a global chart of the proportion of health and safety non-compliance issues related to fire safety, with 33.2 per cent, followed by Portugal (25.5 per cent), the US (24.2 per cent), the Czech Republic (22.7 per cent) and Italy (20.1 per cent).

By sector, manufacturing had the highest proportion of issues at 15.2 per cent and by industry, drugs and pharmaceuticals had the most at 20 per cent.

Dan Viederman, CEO at Verité, said: “Safety at work remains elusive for far too many workers, demonstrating that buyers and suppliers need to go back to basics to ask are buildings safe, are fire safety systems in place, and are workers empowered to speak out if they feel at risk? 

“Fire safety isn’t just a hardware problem – it requires that supplier staff be trained and workers be free to speak out.”

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