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Retailers are closer to implementing safety plan in Bangladesh's garment factories

A worker health and safety provision beating its deadline for implementation? That almost never happens.

But in the case of the Steering Committee of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, we’ll take any movement we can get, particularly in a timely manner. The working conditions in Bangladesh’s garment factories are too dire for safety improvements to be delayed, particularly in the wake of April’s devastating factory collapse and fire.

The Steering Committee announced its plan today to implement in the accord, which is a binding contract between 70 apparel brands and retailers, including H&M, Benetton and Carrefour; international and local trade unions and NGOs. Its aim is to ensure sustainable improvements to working conditions in the Bangladesh garment industry.

The plan’s highlights include:

  • Initial inspections – To identify grave hazards and the need for urgent repairs - will be completed within 9 months.
  • An Interim Procedure has been agreed to take effect when existing inspection processes or worker reports identify factories which require immediate remediation measures.
  • Hiring process commenced for the Chief Safety Inspector and Executive Director positions.
  • Governance structure established through a Steering Committee with equal representation of signatory companies and unions and an Advisory Board with broad representation in Bangladesh.

The Accord signatories stated the priority is to move swiftly to reduce severe hazards facing workers in factories covered by the Accord. Initial inspections at every factory will be completed at the latest within 9 months, and plans for renovations and repairs put in place where necessary. These will focus on those issues that pose grave and immediate risks to workers, in particular inadequate emergency infrastructure and procedures (e.g., fire exits, fire training and evacuation) and fundamental flaws that could lead to a partial or total structural failure of a factory building.

In the meantime, while details are finalized, the signing members outlined an emergency plan to ensure swift action to protect workers at any factory where existing inspection programs or worker reports identify an immediate threat to life and limb.

All signatory companies using the factory in question will be notified immediately and the factory owner will be told to cease operations pending further investigation and/or repairs. With the involvement of the local unions, factory workers will be informed of the potential danger and their right to refuse to enter a potentially unsafe building. A viable plan with renovations and repairs undertaken to address the hazards will be produced and workers will be paid while the factory remains closed.

For more information on the accord and the safety plan, click here

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