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Working Conditions

Ergonomics Program

GRI Content Index

Safeguarding and improving the health and safety of our employees is a priority for Gildan, and an integral part of our business practices. Repetitive movements are an inherent part of our manufacturing process and can lead to discomfort and possibly injuries. Gildan has implemented measures to improve our ergonomic practices at all our facilities, with a goal of mitigating worker discomfort and preventing workplace injuries.

In the textile and garment manufacturing industry, subtle hazards such as exposure to repetitive movements and vibrations, as well as incorrect posture are the main risks in the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). When compared to other industries, the occurrence of other types of acute injuries, illnesses and fatal accidents is very low. It is important to also consider that there are other non-occupational components (general health, non-work-leisure, play and physical daily living activities) that also contribute to the development and incidence of MSDs.

In 2008, Gildan partnered with the Ergonomic Center of North Carolina (ECNC) to develop and implement a best-in-class Ergonomics Program for all our facilities. The ECNC helped Gildan identify and troubleshoot ergonomic risks. Although our current model remains based on the ECNC methodology, we are looking at a more tailor-made program that takes into consideration the specifics of our operational layout.  In this context, during 2017, we will assess our program again to ensure it is adjusted to our manufacturing requirements. We will communicate the results of our assessment in our next CSR report to be issued in 2018.

  • Developing the Gildan Ergonomics Program

    A senior ergonomist from the ECNC was allocated to work with Gildan to further develop our Ergonomics Program. ECNC conducted an initial assessment in Honduras in May 2009. The initial assessment included a set of interviews with members of management and workers, a tour of four manufacturing facilities and a review of Gildan’s current Ergonomics Program, including all medical data available.

    The initial assessment carried out by the ECNC, focused on thoroughly evaluating specific jobs and processes that are considered to pose a higher risk of injury to Gildan employees. The ECNC drafted specific recommendations that address hazards that are commonly associated with MSDs. These recommendations have been implemented and are now part of Gildan’s Ergonomics Program.

    The Ergonomic Culture Maturity Model (ECMM) rates competency in ergonomic practices. The ECNC program provides a roadmap to help companies transition from the lower levels of ergonomics implementation into “World-class” status within periods of time ranging from three to five years.

  • Summary of Elements of ECMM and Levels

    • Injury Management
    • Education and Training
    • Program Compliance and Audit
    • Management Leadership
    • Employee Involvement and Accountability
    • Plant Ergonomics Team
    • Risk Assessment and Hazard Control
    • Prioritization and Analysis
    • Level 1: Fire-fighting
    • Level 2: Reactive
    • Level 3: Compliance
    • Level 4: Preventive
    • Level 5: World-class

    The matrix used by the ECNC includes the following key elements:

    • Employee Involvement and Accountability to establish guidelines and implement a safety disciplinary policy which includes expectations regarding behaviours and participation.
    • Management Leadership to ensure resource availability and program measurement.
    • Injury Management to identify employees with early symptoms and to better track injury trends in order to identify root causes and mitigate risks.
    • Education and Training to support ergonomics awareness and specific training for employees at high risk.
    • Program, Compliance and Audit to implement all program components and audit performance.
    • Plant Ergonomics Team to establish multidisciplinary teams to manage the program.
    • Risk Assessment and Hazard Control to apply controls to identified risks.
    • Prioritization and Analysis to react effectively to incidents.


    During 2016, facilities have continued their progress within our ergonomics program. 

    • Our facilities in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua opened their first Schools for Shoulder Health.
    • 21,887 man hours of training were provided in basic ergonomics, ergonomic risks, load management, “Protect your back 24/7”, Office and at Home Ergonomics at all our manufacturing facilities. 
    • With more than 15 proyects, we carried out a record number of risk analysis and corresponding ergonomic improvements, in our facilities in Central America**
    • Every participant of our Schools for Back and Shoulder Health completes an exit survey to assess the impact of their participation in our program. 96% stated that this training had helped improve their performance at work. 

    Due to organizational changes at our facilities in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, our ergonomics program suffered in terms of consistency in implementation. During 2016 we have strengthened our system in order to bringthese factories up to level with the rest of the manufacturing facilities. However, we did carry out initiatives aimed at strengthening the program like the implementation of new Schools for Back and Shoulder Health in 2016.

    All facilities in Central America and the Caribbean now have a functional Ergonomics Committee responsible for risk analysis and the implementation processes aimed at reducing potential injuries for our employees. For 2017, the Ergonomic committee will be integrated into the EHS committee.

    Ergonomics Events

    In 2016, Gildan held its fifth Annual Ergonomics event at its San Miguel sewing facility. During the event, held over two days, ergonomics training was provided to employees and competitions amongst employees were held culminating in an award ceremony. Each employee also received a brochure with detailed information on ergonomics. In addition, all textile facilities in Central America and the Caribbean organized a Safety and Ergonomics week where employees received training on how to use their personal protective equipment (PPE) as well rs receiving training on ergonomics. Additional activities, such as presentations at the cafeterias and the distribution of brochures on ergonomics took place. 

    In June 2016, Gildan organized its 1st Ergonomics Summit in Honduras. With the participation of all of our facilities, the summit allowed the sharing of our program’s current status and objectives as well as facilitating the exchange of best practices on continuous improvement as it relates to ergonomics.  Our facilities’ Process Engineering and Medical departments presented in total 20 ergonomic improvement projects.

    The following projects were highlighted at our 1st Ergonomics Summit:

    • Our AKH Embellishment facility implemented transport carts in the areas of cutting, drying, and screen printing. This has represented a reduction and optimization in transfer and travel time, as well as a reduction of the musculoskeletal discomfort in employees. Furthermore, 85% of employees surveyed mentioned an improvement when using the carts and 71% improved when using the add-on cart.
    • At our Gildan San Antonio sewing facility we implemented an improvement on T-shirt inspection tables. It meant a reduction of ergonomic risk by improving the design of the T-shirt inspection table, as well as the prevention of musculoskeletal discomfort in the shoulder, back, elbow and wrist.
    • Cross Training to reduce repetitive movements and develop new skills at our Hosiery facilities. Through more than 100,000 hours of training this initiative has reduced repetitive movements during the working day while endowing the potential of our employees by developing new skills. Employees experience a change in routine and perform different movements during the workday that result in more effective and motivated employees. 72% of the production floor is already graduated in Cross Training.

  • Gildan’s Schools for Back Health

    As part of our ongoing implementation of our Ergonomics Program and our commitment towards our employees’ health, Gildan implemented schools for back health in Honduras over the past years and inaugurated its first school in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in 2016. These schools were developed based on a program created by the Honduran Social Security Institute’s Regional Rehabilitation Centre. Thirteen nurses and fifteen doctors from Gildan’s medical team are certified in Honduras as instructors to provide theoretical and practical sessions to employees. In Nicaragua both our doctor and nurse are certified in addition to the Dominican Republic’s doctor.

    The goal of these sessions is to educate our employees on how to take care of their health in order to prevent back injuries thus improving their overall quality of life. Instruction is carried out in a series of 10 training sessions that include exercises that contribute to the reduction of back pain, back injury relapses and work-related medical leaves.

    A medical screening process conducted by our doctors will be used to select employees who will participate in this program.

    Gildan has been the first company in Honduras and Nicaragua to implement such a program.

    As a result of the success of Gildan’s Schools for Back Health, we also developed a School for Shoulder Health. It was first implemented at one of one of our sewing facilities in Honduras. A total of 9 doctors and 17 nurses were trained in order to become certified as instructors. The School for Shoulder health is provided in the same location as the School for back health. They are present in all our facilities in Honduras, except our Star facility, which was acquired in 2012 and thus does not have yet the schools. Nicaragua completed setting up the back schools for two facilities in 2016 and will open a third one in 2017.

    As a result of the success of Gildan’s Schools for Back Health, we also developed a School for Shoulder Health. It was first implemented at one of one of our sewing facilities in Honduras. A total of 19 doctors and 12 nurses were trained in order to become certified as instructors. The School for Shoulder health is provided in the same location as the School for back health. Nicaragua completed setting up schools for back health for two facilities in 2016 and will open a third one in 2017. The Dominican Republic opened its first school for back health in 2016 will open a second one in 2017.


    After 7 years of experience implementing a comprehensive and structured model based on the ECNC’s maturity matrix, we believe that we have had important achievements, albeit not without challenges.  These have allowed us to stop and evaluate the future of how we want to continue to improve and maintain this commitment to ergonomic wellbeing.

    Our efforts have borne important achievements like defining an ergonomics policy, developing training programs and nurturing employee participation and awareness as well as promoting an ongoing risk assessment and management of change.  2017 will be the year to evaluate those achievements against the challenges and new complexities of our manufacturing process.