Nearly 3 million people around the globe die every year due to risk factors in the workplace, including accidents, work-related diseases, and extreme working hours. The COVID-19 pandemic only served to exacerbate the situation, forcing the world to become more aware of the importance of implementing and enforcing strong occupational safety and health systems.

Establishing effective provisions to protect workers requires meaningful participation by employers, employees, public health actors, and other relevant parties. At Fair Trade USA™, we consider the perspectives of all these groups in assembling standards for creating and maintaining safe working environments that protect the health of workers.

Advantages of Strong Workplace Safety Standards

The resulting benefits of strong workplace safety standards are profound for workers, as well as management and the business enterprise overall. For workers, safety measures can prevent injuries, illness, and loss of life. At the same time, the knowledge that workers are safe in their place of employment can lead to greater peace of mind for workers and their families. For businesses, a safer work environment can lead to reduced costs, improved morale and culture, and enhanced production.

When a company’s safety standards are verified through a credible program like Fair Trade Certified™, brands, retailers, and traders can source their products with confidence, helping improve traceability and credibility for their business, and creating shared value for consumers who care about shopping ethically. The end game is to generate a true win-win scenario for everyone involved.

Brenda Guadalupe Prado Rodriguez

“Fair Trade is a great incentive to keep improving; it’s a sign of trust. I enjoy working for a company that has this certification and high standards.” – Brenda Guadalupe Prado Rodriguez, a quality control supervisor at the MHMR packing plant, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico

Fair Trade Certified’s Approach to Workplace Safety

How do we contribute to the establishment and enforcement of safe working conditions? Fair Trade Certified producers, groups of producers, and facilities of all sizes, including farms, fisheries, and factories, are audited according to our rigorous standards for sustainability, fair wages, and workplace safety. Our organization develops, implements, and monitors our Fair Trade standards with the goals of driving income equality, community and individual well-being, empowerment, and environmental stewardship.

Our Theory of Change describes how the strategies and activities of an organization can impact the lives and livelihoods of farmers, fishers, and workers in hired labor settings over time. This model is built on four stakeholder journeys:

  • Resilient Communities
  • Conscious Consumers
  • Mutually Beneficial Trade
  • Prosperous Individuals

Our focus on helping to establish and maintain Prosperous Individuals throughout the world includes our protocols for safe working conditions. We seek to provide protections for workers, farmers, and fishers by requiring secure environments, additional capital and resources, and education along their path to achieving Fair Trade Certification

However, our workplace safety standards do not solely pertain to the well-being of individuals. All stakeholder goals work in tandem, so that providing for the safety and health of certified producers can also lead to Resilient Communities made up of secure families who are treated equitably, Mutually Beneficial Trade sourced from ethical supply chains, and Conscious Consumers made aware of Fair Trade practices and understanding their value.

Setting the Standards for Workplace Safety

An important way that Fair Trade Certified drives collective empowerment is by setting industry and agricultural standards that establish groups to foster communication and collaboration on important issues such as health and safety, community investments, and working conditions. As an example, our Agricultural Production Standard (APS) requires the formation of a Fair Trade Committee, a Health and Safety Committee, and a Social Engagement Team that collaborate to set, enforce, and communicate guiding principles for the workplace, including:

  • Ensuring adequate first aid supplies and access to medical services are provided in the case of workplace incidents.
  • Workers are provided with acute medical care for all workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as lost wages during immediate recovery time.
  • Machinery and equipment on the site, as well as worker transportation, are maintained and equipped with appropriate safety devices.
  • In hot climates and in hot workplaces, workers are provided with suitably cool water and shade for rest breaks in order to protect against heat stress.

Examples of Our Safety Standards in Action

Personal Well-Being:

  • A major U.S. retailer sourcing their produce from Fair Trade Certified tomato farms in Mexico indicated only 6% of workers reported accidents in the last year, while 94% said that they always felt physically safe while working.
  • We surveyed over 11,000 workers employed at factories across China, India, Mexico, Nepal, and Vietnam that implemented Fair Trade Certified standards between 2016 – 2022 and learned that 90% of the respondents now feel safe working there (vs. 65% in 2016)


On-Site Safety Equipment:

  • Franklin Baker Company, a producer of Fair Trade Certified coconuts in the Philippines, has provided not only first aid kits for workers, but also cash assistance to employees who tested positive for COVID-19 to take care of their medical expenses and food.
  • In Peru, Fair Trade Certified coffee cooperative Asociación Provincial de Cafetaleros Solidarios San Ignacio presented workers with COVID training, bio-safety products, as well as first aid kits.


Clean Drinking Water and Sanitary Conditions:

  • The Intebaj SAPI de CV tomato growers located in Salamanca & Santiago Valley in Guanajuato, Mexico recognized that the bathrooms of 50 of their workers’ residential homes (housing over 200 individuals in total) lacked basic sanitary infrastructure. A Community Development Fund project is now helping to fund construction costs for each of the bathrooms identified as needing upgrades. Making the bathrooms more hygienic will help prevent illnesses contributing to absences from work and medical expenses. It also enhances workers’ sense of health and well-being.
A field worker pours himself water at Usina Goiasa in Goiás, Brazil
A field worker pours himself water at Usina Goiasa in Goiás, Brazil. Because the sugar at Goiasa is organic, weeding is done manually. A managing supervisor receives hourly updates about the temperature, humidity, and air quality, and advises workers to stop if they reach unhealthy or unsafe levels. Each worker has their own dedicated water bottle to ensure proper hydration throughout their shift.

A Global Initiative

Fair Trade USA is proud to align its practices with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. While the SDGs were primarily conceived as government-level objectives, achievement of the goals and targets will require an investment from all stakeholders, including the business community.

We track our impact and measure progress against 6 of the 17 SDGs, with our focus on Safe Working Conditions supporting two specifically:

  • SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation – Fair Trade standards require that workers have access to potable water and adequate sanitation facilities on plantations and in factories.
  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth – Fair Trade standards minimize workplace risks and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to ensure that workers and farmers are safe.

Through collaboration with our partners, we aspire to improve livelihoods, protect the environment, and build resilient, transparent supply chains. Together, we can build a more equitable world!

Safe Working Conditions Report

Access our full report to learn more about the advantages of a safe working environment for workers and businesses, Fair Trade USA’s approach to workplace safety and standards, and how Fair Trade standards help meet the need for personal well-being, access to on-site safety equipment, clean drinking water, and proper sanitary conditions.