Factories have building regulations and labor restrictions for one very important reason, lives are at stake. So when a fire sparked in a New Delhi on Sunday, December 8th killing 43 people, something was definitely wrong. Accidents happen, but many are avoidable when regulations are followed. Here's what went wrong in the New Delhi factory fire and how you can avoid it happening in your supply chain.
Fire Hazards are Common
The nature of garment factories is fire hazards. You have a bunch of fodder from fabric and packaging intermingled with heavy electrical machinery. All running very long hours each day and of course prone to human error such as not tidying up your station, unplugging appropriate machinery, etc. Not a great combo. It also means when a fire accident happens, the whole facility can burn for hours. This happened in the New Delhi factory fire.
100 Garment Workers Sleeping in the Factory
When a fire broke out early Sunday morning in a residential part of New Delhi, it was found to be in a bag and toy factory with over 100 garment workers sleeping on cots on the factory floor in between their long shifts. Putting aside the fact that these were migrant workers from Eastern India, making $2/day, it is not uncommon in this part of the world for a factory to also provide housing for workers, but when an ethical certification is in place, the living conditions are reviewed to the same standards that the facility is, and never are the workers to be sleeping on the factory floor.
No Access for Fire Department
The illegal factory was on a narrow street that fire engines struggled to access making the incident "extremely horrific" as responders struggled to control the flames. After hours the bulk of the flames had been extinguished but authorities still were deployed Monday morning to douse the small flames that remained from the waste.
Too Many Violations to Control
State checks are conducted to enforce building safety and evacuation procedures but in a quickly growing city of 20 million people, the violations aren't enough to stop business, and the sheer number of new factories that pop up makes it's extremely difficult to police and control. Did you know often when a factory is shut down for violations, they open up under a new name (even though they are the exact same factory), and this buys them more time to keep operating.
The NPR report gets right to the crux of the issue with this summary:
Babar Ali, 32, rescued his sister-in-law from the fire. He told the AP that the lives of migrant workers was "a bigger tragedy than their death," as they struggle to earn a living while working long shifts in unsafe conditions. "Their only fault was they were poor," Ali said. "Why else would someone work and sleep in such a congested place?"
On a positive note, the Indian government has arrested the factory owner and is promising financial aid for the injured and the surviving families of the victims.
That's really the problem at the end of the day. A market demanding goods so cheap that vulnerable people are exploited. To fix this, you can begin by working with ethically certified factories to produce your collection.
Not sure where to find ethical factories? Our tech platform enables you to search ethical factories around the world, communicate directly, compare pricing, and manage your production all in one place! We want to help you find the best factory for your brand so you can both grow together in a way that supports people.