NEW YORK — Problems related to health and safety procedures, as well as improper payment of wages and benefits, were the leading violations found at 110 apparel factories in 20 countries evaluated by the Fair Labor Association over the past year.

The FLA, an industry-backed group created to monitor and publicize conditions in foreign contractors, released its annual review of factory conditions last week.

Overall, the review found an average of 15.2 violations per factory of the FLA’s Workplace Code in 2004, compared with 6.9 violations per factory the previous year. The FLA reported that it selects factories for review that are regarded as having a high risk of violations, so the increase does not necessarily correspond with an overall worldwide increase in code violations.

Companies including Liz Claiborne, Nordstrom, Phillips-Van Heusen, Nike and Adidas-Salomon participate in the FLA and require their vendors to follow the group’s code, which covers such areas as safety, wages and hours, and the prohibition of forced and child labor.

The largest number of violations found, representing 46 percent of all recorded, pertained to health and safety. Major violations included inadequate signs explaining factory-evacuation procedures in the event of a fire or other disaster, and inadequate safety equipment.

The second-largest area of concern was wages and benefits. The group found 37 instances where employers were not paying legally mandated local benefits for their workers, and 31 instances where employees had not been informed of their benefit entitlements.

The group found no actual instances of forced labor — such as prisoners — or child labor in the factories it reviewed. However, FLA investigators did find factories where there were inadequate records to show that employees were not forced or child workers.

Most U.S. apparel vendors require their foreign suppliers to keep extensive records on their employees, hours and wages, which is part of an effort to police the behavior of factories that are not owned by the U.S. companies.

— Scott Malone

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