Effective safety regulation remains an elusive goal for many industrializing nations, with the economic philosophy underpinning economic globalization ambivalent towards regulation, while successive industrial disasters demonstrate a need for improvement. This article explores this nexus between globalization and regulatory reform through research into the aftermath of the Kader Toy Factory Fire in Bangkok, Thailand. It argues that reform following such events cannot be assessed by reference to the nature of the regulatory techniques adopted without consideration of the regulatory context. Rather, research on regulatory change needs to develop an appreciation of the interaction between the regulatory framework and the social context. The article develops a theoretical concept of 'regulatory character' as the means to conceptualize and explore this interaction. Regulatory character is informed by an understanding of the importance of cultural ordering to regulatory change and regulatory compliance as outlined by Hood (1998) and Selznick's (1992) argument that cultural order is moulded by the economic and political dependencies. Thai regulatory character is then described and used to assess safety reform in Thailand following the Kader Toy Factory Fire. Finally, the interaction between Thai regulatory character and globalization is explored through the data on the aftermath of the fire.