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International workplace safety is focus of talk

Bangladesh is home to more than 4,500 garment factories, employing more than 4.5 million workers, many who are young girls.

In April 2013, one of these garment factories collapsed and 1,100 workers died. The tragedy brought international attention to the unsafe working conditions at many of these factories, as well as the laxity of oversight by and apparent indifference of major clothing retailers such as Walmart, a portion of whose goods originates from them.

Garrett Brown, an industrial hygienist formerly with California’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety, recently returned from a 10-day trip to Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh, where he met with garment workers, their unions and the staff of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety.

He will report on the fruits of those talks when he speaks from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday in the Blanchard Room at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. in Davis. Admission is free.

The accord is an independent organization conducting structural, electrical and fire inspections of 1,800 garment factories with 2 million workers. More than 175 clothing brands and retailers have signed the binding accord to repair all identified hazards and establish factory health and safety committees.

Brown worked for Cal OSHA for 20 years as a compliance officer and headquarters staff, and is now the full-time volunteer coordinator of the Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network, based in Berkeley.

The network is an organization of 400 occupational health and safety professionals who volunteer their time providing information, on-site instruction and technical assistance regarding workplace hazards in the 3,000 foreign-owned assembly plants, known as “maquiladoras,” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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