A fire in a footwear factory in Valenzuela City in northern Metro Manila that claimed 72 lives “reflects the prevalence of poor occupational health and safety standards” in Asia, according to an expert from a UK-based global risk and strategic consulting firm,
The fire broke out on Wednesday, 13 May in a factory owned by Kentex Manufacturing producing rubber slippers. Initial reports indicate sparks from welding equipment set light to rubber and other flammable materials, according to authorities. An investigation has been launched and a fund has been established by the government to support victims and their families.
Eufracia Taylor, Asia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said poor safety standards posed challenges for firms sourcing manufactured goods from the region.
“Despite publicized commitments to improving working conditions and health and safety standards following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in 2013, there remains a gap between the targets of companies and the actions implemented by suppliers throughout Asia,” she said in an article posted on the website of Supply Management, the online magazine of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.
“The factory fire reflects the prevalence of poor occupational health and safety standards, which have struggled to improve against the backdrop of restrictive budgets in the government departments responsible for ensuring compliance.”
She added: “Lax occupational health and safety standards have created a complex set of challenges for companies sourcing manufactured goods across Asia, including risks to corporate reputations, increasing operating costs and obstacles to supply chains transparency.”