Coping with COVID-19 – Lesson from the Ethiopian garment and textile industry

With the purpose of sharing factories practices to prevent COVID-19 and improve workers’ well being, the ILO programme on advancing decent work and inclusive industrialisation (SIRAYE) hosted the second webinar series with over 20 factories across Ethiopia.

Article | 10 June 2020

Many of the factories felt the shock of the impact of Covid-19 with demand from the global market slowly decreasing. The shock was particularly felt more as Ethiopia started recording cases of COVID-19 virus as of March 13, 2020 as some workers stopped going to work in fear of being infected and factories temporarily closing to develop or enact preventive measures and plan business continuity.

Three month on, factories in Ethiopia are adopting to the new normal with strict measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 virus and maintain safety and health in the workplace as factory operation continues.
With the objective of understanding the preventive and coping mechanisms being adopted by factories and sharing practices among factories, the ILO programme on advancing decent work and inclusive industrialisation (Siraye) hosted the second webinar series on June 3, 2020 with over 20 factories across Ethiopia.

Measures taken by factories to prevent the spread of the virus

As factories continue to operate in light of the virus outbreak, employers are putting in place various measures to equip workers with the right information and mitigate the spread of the virus in factories.
Awareness raising: factories have adopted different measures to create awareness on the overall nature of the virus as well as preventive measures to be taken. This is done through workers-managers consultation sessions, utilising factory ceiling speakers and using print material like posters and flyers.

Worker lineup demarcation
Enforcing social Distancing:
factories have re-structured their operational setup to ensure social distancing in production lines, meeting halls, canteens and transportation services. Measures such as maintaining the required distance between lines, adding more table and chairs in canteens to avoid workers sitting close to each other, increasing the number of transportation buses while cutting the number of passengers per bus by half.

Disinfection and fumigation: workers are expected to regularly wash hands and disinfect their shoes upon entry to and exit from the factory. Factories have set up hand and shoe washing and disinfection stations, provided hand sanitizers and masks and conduct machinery fumigations and utility washing. Some factories have also designed and set up disinfection booth/tunnels.
Temperature Check at the gate

Temperature checks
at entry gates and random temperature checks during work hours are also conducted to monitor worker well- being. While most factories indicated they are not clear about what measures they need to take in case of a suspected cases, one factory has established a quarantine centre for suspects to be isolated until the relevant stakeholder takes over. Another factory have also extended the length of maternity leave from 4 month to 6 month.

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increase in Ethiopia, it is hard to predict how the textile and garment industry will look like in a few month time. The ILO Siraye programme will continue to deliver its services to factories through virtual advisory visits as well as training whilst working closely with the industry partners to ensure safety and health at work.