EU RMG retailers start factory safety inspection todayStaff Correspondent
Safety experts appointed by the European retailers will start today inspection of around 1,500 Bangladesh garment factories from where they procure products, said an official of the retailers group on Tuesday.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the platform of EU retailers, has appointed four international firms for assessment of fire, electrical and structural safety of the garment units, Accord executive director for Bangladesh operations of Rob Wayss told New Age on Tuesday
He said about 70 to 80 inspectors in 40 teams will inspect approximately 1,500 garment factories, recommend safety improvements and set a deadline for the owners to implement the necessary measures by September.
The European retailers such as H&M, Benetton, Mango, Primark, and Adidas were among the host of big Western brands to sign up to the Accord in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster in which they agreed to bankroll the safety inspections and loan the money for upgrades.
The brands signed the legally-binding accord several weeks after the April 24 disaster, following widespread accusations that they had been turning a blind eye to shoddy safety standards in a country where textile workers had been paid as little as 38 dollars a month.
Wayss said that 25 experts from Bangladesh would join the teams for safety inspections.
‘The timeframe will depend on the nature of the safety problems,’ he said.
He said the retailers would give loans to their contract manufacturers the money needed to carry out the upgrades if they could not immediately afford the work themselves.
Despite the promises of a loan, some bosses are unhappy at having to carry out what they describe as ‘unnecessary and costly’ improvements, reports Agence France-Presse.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association says the industry needs more time, especially if they have to shift factories out of buildings which were constructed mainly for residential purposes.
‘Sprinklers, fire-proof doors and new electric wires raise cost of production to the extent that some factories won’t be able to operate anymore,’ said the association’s vice-president Shahidullah Azim.
Wayss, however, ruled out any suggestion of a compromise on safety issues, saying that all factories would have to install sprinklers and fire doors.
Bangladesh is the world’s biggest clothing exporter after China and has around 4,500 garment factories. The industry generates around $22 billion, making it by far the biggest earner for the government.
But the sector has a woeful safety track record, which was highlighted in November 2012 by a fire at the Tazreen factory in Dhaka when 111 workers were killed, many of whom were unable to escape due to a lack of proper fire exits.
Less than six months later, 1,135 people were killed when the nine-storey Rana Plaza complex collapsed on the outskirts of the capital in Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial disaster.
Some major US retailers, including Walmart, held back from signing the accord in May but they have drawn up their own separate agreement to inspect several hundred factories with their own experts.
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