IT IS sheer good fortune that no one was severely injured in the fire at an apparel factory in the capital Dhaka’s Madartek area Sunday afternoon. According to a report published in New Age on Monday, around 2,000 people were at work when the fire started on the sixth floor of the seven-storey building just after midday. A director of the company was quoted in the report as claiming that the workers are trained properly to face such a critical situation and that the factory has an ‘efficient fire safety’ mechanism that ‘prevented casualties’. If so, it is indeed commendable. Nonetheless, the incident ultimately reinforces the case for a stringent factory inspection mechanism, to ensure fire safety and also structural integrity of factory buildings. Regrettably, however, a comprehensive inspection of apparel factories across the country, as New Age reported on Sunday, seems to have been lost its way in bureaucratic tangle. As is reported, the inspection, which was scheduled to begin on Sunday, could not underway because the Economic Relations Division approval for the use of $24 million fund arranged by the ILO had not been secured and common standards for the inspection worked out till Saturday night.
It is worth noting that the inspection was envisaged in the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy, in which more than 1,100 people, mostly apparel workers, were killed, and that Alliance and Accord, two consortiums of North American and European Union retail brands over safety issue, are scheduled to inspect about 1,750 factories, with the government covering the rest with assistance of the ILO and 30 expert teams of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. The fire at the apparel factory on Sunday should make the authorities concerned realise that every minute of delay and/or dithering ultimately makes the apparel industry to more such accidents. The factory at Madartek may have been prepared for such an accident but there are many factories that neither have any fire safety training for workers nor are housed in structurally sound buildings.
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