Scripted Performances? Local Readings of 'Global' Health and Safety Standards (The Apparel Sector in Sri Lanka)

Kanchana Ruwanpura

Abstract


Ensuring a healthy working environment in the apparel sector is advocated by various multi-stakeholder initiatives and retailers because of apparent concerns for the health and welfare of workers. As an 'ethically sourced' supplier in the global garment industry, the Sri Lankan industry has by and large taken great efforts to improve the provision of safety and hygiene to enhance worker welfare. The physical provisos and built environments with regard to health and safety issues are superlatively impressive in many Sri Lankan factories. Yet ethnographic fieldwork suggests that upholding this ethical code is messily enforced, with a lower prioritization of worker welfare. Consequently, in promoting ‘global’ health and safety standards, the lack of attention to existing social hierarchies and local context results in an absence of genuine commitment to labour rights – even where working conditions may seem superlatively impressive. Local enforcement of the health and safety code as it transmits across global spaces then can not be separated from inequities embedded in uneven development processes.


Keywords


apparel sector; ethical codes; health and safety; Labour Geography;

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15173/glj.v4i2.1133