WASHINGTON — Apparel and footwear groups are voluntarily signing alliances with the government in an effort to reduce ergonomic injuries in the workplace at the same time the Department of Labor steps up enforcement of health and safety violations.
The Labor Department announced Tuesday that it plans to step up enforcement on employers who continue to "defy" worker safety and health regulations.
Meanwhile, the American Apparel & Footwear Association and the International Mass Retail Association have signed separate alliances with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to work on injury and illness prevention.
"This is strictly a way to put teeth into our enforcement of companies we have already issued citations to or provided outreach to and who still continue to flaunt the rules," said an OSHA spokesman.
OSHA plans to "strengthen" five areas, including follow-up inspections, programmed inspections, public awareness, settlements and federal court enforcement. The initiative will impact companies that have received OSHA citations with the highest severity of willful violations, multiple serious violations, repeat violations, failure-to-abate notices or a serious or willful violation associated with a fatality.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the announcement was expected.
As part of its agreement with OSHA, AAFA said it will provide members with information and guidance to help protect employees’ health and safety, particularly in reducing exposure to ergonomic hazards and provide training on ergonomic techniques, program structure and applications. IMRA plans to unveil its alliance today at its Loss Prevention, Auditing & Safety Conference in Orlando.
"This agreement signed with OSHA was a signal from the association that our industry wants to support safety in the workplace and safety is not achieved by developing a new standard, but rather by companies looking at safety as good business," said Kevin Burke, president of AAFA.
The voluntary alliances have drawn criticism from UNITE, which claims there are many apparel, textile and footwear companies that don’t belong to the associations and will not participate in the ergonomics and training sessions. UNITE argued for new regulations after the Bush administration in late 2001 repealed the Clinton administration’s workplace rules designed to protect workers from repetitive motion and other stress-related musculoskeletal injuries.Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said her agency would develop voluntary guidelines and not issue new regulations.
"These alliances are OSHA’s weak substitute for an effective enforcement program on ergonomic issues," said Eric Frumin, health and safety director at UNITE. "Once [the agency] eliminates the standard, Labor has to pull together a much more detailed picture of a higher level of abuse to use existing authority."
OSHA’s spokesman said in a statement: "The general duty clause requires employers to keep their workplaces free from any recognized hazard, including ergonomics, and that requirement exists whether or not an employer uses voluntary guidelines. We’ve said on numerous occasions that we will not be enforcing guidelines, but we will focus our efforts on those companies that have not acted in good faith."
In addition, he noted OSHA’s track record on safety and health citations. OSHA inspectors oversee 26 states while 24 states and two territories operate their own federally approved programs.
For the fiscal year 2002, OSHA cited 78,479 safety and health violations in the 26 states and assessed penalties of $73.3 million. The 24 states and two U.S. territories cited 144,075 violations during the same fiscal year and assessed penalties of $75.8 million.
Any violations and penalties for ergonomics falls within the broad category known as the "general duty clause," which is a clause for citations where no standards exist. In the year, OSHA cited 1,281 violations and assessed penalties of $2.8 million under this clause, which includes a broad range of areas where standards do not exist.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast