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A wake-up call, indeed

That almost a half of apparel workers in the country are worried about their safety in work place and think that they may not be able to leave the factory buildings quickly in emergencies yet again points to the fact that the authorities concerned still need to do a lot to ensure a safe working environment in the apparel sector. According to a New Age report on Sunday, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a platform of North American apparel brands set up after the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013 to improve safety condition of workers here, came up with the findings that were made public on January 30 after conducting a worker baseline survey on more than 3,200 workers in 28 factories in November–December 2013. Moreover, the survey findings also include that 30 per cent of the workers fear a high risk of fire in their factory buildings. Also, 49 per cent of the workers aged between 14 and 17 years are anxious about the adverse impact their job might have left on their health at least to some extent. Besides, 65 per cent of the workers interviewed off-site by the focus groups to obtain more detailed information prefer to work on a low floor for safety reasons while 27 per cent feel that they were sufficiently trained in how to save themselves in emergencies.
Apart from conducting the survey, Alliance people have already inspected 222 factories out of the around 700, from which the North American companies buy clothes, to assess the factory compliance with Alliance fire and building safety standards. Additionally, they are expected to complete the inspection of the rest factories by July. More importantly, inspections are set to prompt action plans to be used by the relevant factories to address worker  safety concerns. Regardless of what the action plans may include finally, the government needs to take the findings in question as a wake-up call in the first place. True, the apparel owners have to shoulder the primary responsibility to ensure safety measures in their respective factories. But none can deny as well that, as the manager of the state, the government is to look after the sector. One also needs to take account of the fact that the sector provides employment directly to more than four million people, mostly women, and indirectly to millions more. Above all, the economy is heavily dependent on the sector that earns more than 76 per cent of the country’s export earnings a year.

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