Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Chinese manufacturer convicted of manslaughter in deadly factory fire


January 13, 2015
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Jan. 13, 2015 – The owner and two managers of a Chinese garment manufacturer have been convicted of manslaughter by an Italian court in relation to a 2013 factory fire that killed seven people in the Tuscan city of Prato.

The stiffest sentence, eight years and eight months, went to Lin You Lan, the owner of the Teresa Moda factory, which churned out cheap clothes in the largely Chinese manufacturing district in Tuscany. Two factory managers — Lin Youli, and her husband, Hu Xiaoping — received sentences of six years and 10 months, and six years and six months, respectively.

The three defendants were also convicted of exploiting clandestine labour and failing to use safety measures.

Officials said the fire exposed the pursuit of profit over safety in Italy. The Associated Press is reporting that prosecutors alleged the factory’s fire exit was blocked by piles of flammable fabric; the defence disputed that.

The fire spurred Italian authorities to beef up safety standards enforcement, reported the Associated Press, adding that Italian authorities have raided nearly 2,000 Chinese factories over the last several years, closing more than 900 for safety and labour violations.

Thousands of Chinese migrants have been smuggled into Italy, often to find work at factories that ignore basic safety standards, said court officials. Police investigations found that billions of euros in wages earned were smuggled to China over the last few years.

(While the incident in this article takes place outside of North America, Manufacturing AUTOMATION feels this case highlights the global importance of safety standards in manufacturing and accountability. — Ed.)

— With files from Francesco Sportelli, the Associated Press