The National Crime Agency and the Occupational Safety Watchdog visited Leicester’s factories and operations on Friday as they sought to address concerns that inappropriate standards for garment manufacturers played a role in the city’s second wave of coronaviruses.
The health and safety executive visited 11 locations, in some cases together with police officers from Leicestershire, the ANC and other agencies. An HSE spokesman said the business was “focused on the textile industry” in the city.
Police said they had “routine visits” to nine factories and workplaces, adding that no applications were performed but advice on health and safety issues was given. One person was detained in connection with immigration issues.
The HSE spokesman said: “No communications have been reported and commercial activities have not been closed. However, verbal advice has been given to all of them and further investigations are underway with a number of companies to ensure compliance with safer driving in the workplace. “
The visits appeared to have been conducted as part of the new inspection of the textile industry in Leicester following allegations that factories may not have been able to guarantee that their labor force was protected by Covid-19 at the beginning of the blockade.
Earlier this week, a report from the Labor Behind the Label campaign group revealed the testimony of workers in the clothing industry who claimed that some people had been forced to work despite having symptoms of the virus.
Public Health England said Thursday it had found “no explanatory outbreak … in industrial processes”, an apparent reference to factories. But the PHE analysis of data collected by local health authorities had previously shown that many of the recently infected ones were young people aged 20 to 40, often of Asian descent, many of whom worked in the textile or food sector.
HSE had already started investigating three textile companies in the city and said Wednesday that it was taking law enforcement action on a site.
The heavy scrutiny of the garment factories and businesses associated with Leicester appears to have caused anxiety in the industry, and leading figures are believed to have held a meeting on Friday evening to discuss their response to the situation.
Separately Friday, a the industrial source provided the Guardian with a list of over a dozen vendors who would sell to the fast fashion brand Boohoo and continue to operate during the crisis despite the infected workers being on site. Two community sources who were consulted on the list said it was corroborated by the information provided by the informants.
Boohoo previously claimed that none of its suppliers had been interested. On Friday, he did not respond directly to complaints when asked for comment by the Guardian, but said he was “working with our third-party compliance partner to further investigate compensation claims and work with suppliers to ensure compliance. “
He previously stated that his headquarters was “in constant contact with our suppliers” via video and audio calls during the first weeks of the block when compliance visits were impossible and that he had subsequently resumed the on-site audit.
Numerous other explanations have been put forward as possible factors in the Leicester wave in coronavirus cases, ranging from the central government’s inability to share data with local authorities to overcrowded housing.