According to the latest information, a total of 3,768 RMG units have been inspected by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, and National Initiative.
The remaining inspected factories are at different stages of repair works and improvements in safety – encompassing fire, electrical and structural safety – and compliance. Some have made significant progress and others are at the final stage, awaiting approval from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE).
Of the 31 factories that completed remediation works, 24 manufacture products for Alliance signatory brands and 7 for Accords signatory brands.
Of the inspected factories, 49.5% of RMG units that produce clothing for signatory brands of Alliance and approximately 60% of Accords have completed all required repairs.
However, remediation works in factories under the National Initiative is very slow. As of yesterday, only 50 RMG units placed Corrective Action Plans (CAPs) before the DIFE.
BGMEA vice president Mahmud Hassan Khan Babu has said: “Remarkable progress has been made in safety standards as the initiatives taken by the government and other stakeholders are going on in full swing.”
“If low cost of financing, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), technical support, and enough engineering firms for Detailed Engineering Assessment (DEA) are ensured, we will be able to end the process before the stipulated timeframe,” he said.
“Our factories are safer now than they were three years ago, and they get safer every day as we continue to work with factory owners through the remediation process,” managing director of Alliance M Rabin told the Dhaka Tribune.
“In fact, a majority of our factories have fewer than five high-priority safety risks left to address. We are redoubling our efforts to stress the importance of factories, prioritising progress on them, and other issues that are most critical to the safety of lives,” said Rabin.
“The government is serious about taking reform initiatives to make the RMG sector safe and secure. But we remain concerned about the government’s current capacity that is crucial to complete the process and maintain the sector in the years to come,” he added.
“Fire, electrical and structural safety in the RMG factories, producing for the Accord signatory companies, in general, have improved significantly. Approximately 60% of the findings from our initial inspections have been reported as corrected,” said executive director of Accord Rob Wayss.
The RMG owners need to complete the remediation work, and to do so in a much more timely manner. “Having a functioning and capable labour-management safety committee at each factory is a very important next step in achieving a safety compliant RMG sector,” said Rob.
“The biggest issue right now is to simply achieve the will and commitment to complete the remediation at inspected factories. Almost all of the technical and capacity challenges faced earlier in the execution of the Accord with the inspected factories have now been overcome,” he added.
“Initiatives taken are enough to ensure safety and workers’ rights, but the owners have to mentally prepare to adopt it,” Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) Assistant Executive Director Sultan Uddin Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune.
“The process of remediation should be a part of culture, and the issue of safety is now a matter of adoption,” Sultan said.
“If safety improvements are made only to please people, then the safety works will not be sustainable. The stakeholders and the government should continue to make the issues of progress and safety a sustainable one. The inclusion of workers and all stakeholders in safety awareness and raising their voices in concern is a must for safety,” he added.
Labour and Employment Senior Secretary Mikail Shipar cited five challenges, including shared factory buildings, rented factory buildings, insufficient technical assistance, continuous monitoring of the remediation process, and remediation financing. He also said the government is working earnestly to face the challenges and end the remediation process in time.
The issue of safety in the country’s apparel sector came under the spotlight after the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing more than 1,135 workers three years ago.
In the aftermath of the incident, the tripartite initiatives were taken to improve safety standards in the country's RMG sector.