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Concerted efforts stressed to bolster workplace safety

  • Published at 09:23 pm April 24th, 2019
Concerted efforts stressed to bolster workplace safety
Speakers at a roundtable discussion on improvements in factory safety measures post-Rana Plaza tragedy, at the capital's EMK Center premises on Wednesday Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The policymakers, retailers and brand, and agencies concerned working for workplace compliance must work together to accomplish the safety remediation works

Safety of workers should be enhanced, especially in the apparel sector, ensuring upgraded compliance and smooth growth in the highly competitive global market, demanded participants in a roundtable on Wednesday.

The policymakers, retailers and brand, and agencies concerned working for workplace compliance must work together to accomplish the safety remediation works, they observed.   

The Dhaka Tribune and the EMK Center jointly organized the event on Improvements in Factory Safety Measures Post-Rana Plaza Tragedy at the latter’s Dhanmondi office. 

Tuomo Poutiainen, country director of International Labour Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh, noted that although a lot was done in addressing the compliance issues, a lot still remained to be done. 

“We must acknowledge what has been done in ensuring safety (electrical, fire and structural) mainly in the industrial compliance in the apparel sector, but that is not enough,” he said.

Calling for creating a culture of safety, he observed that a lot was invested in institutions to help build their capacity and that they should be held accountable in this regard.

“We are at the crossroads in terms of workplace safety. We should not be complacent (over the improvements in safety standards),” he said, suggesting that the workers should have the scope to open up about their issues at work.   

Moushumi M Khan, chief executive director of Nirapon, a platform of American buyers monitoring safety issues, said the factory owners must ensure the right to work safely to the employees.   

“There has to be a process of monitoring to help the work of Alliance sustain,” she said, adding that the Bangladesh National Building Code and other fire safety-related regulations have to be followed properly to avert recurrence of Rana Plaza-like tragedies.

Lack of functional capacity among the agencies concerned needed to be addressed and workers must be provided with a safe accommodation and proper healthcare for a better output, she stated.

Vidiya Amrit Khan, deputy managing director of Desh Garments Ltd, said fire incidents like that of FR Tower led to multiple initiatives, which did not end up bearing fruit.

“This all happens since the measures are not followed up consistently,” she said, however, arguing that such fire hazards were also common in other industrial sectors.

“Safety needs regular monitoring and we have to learn things ourselves on the surveillance,” Vidiya suggested. 

She was also of the opinion that the Accord could follow the Alliance in terms of the safety standard monitoring issue.

Nazma Akter, president of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF), said the Accord must be given more support to complete its safety remediation successfully.

“The government’s capacity needs to be increased to monitor the safety standards accurately,” the worker leader said. 

Citing workers’ unrest over safety issues of the past, Nazma said nothing was achieved until a movement was fanned. 

Nazma said the competency of government officials responsible for inspecting fire safety standards needed to be assessed.

Shafiqul Islam, executive director of the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), mentioned that there was no practice of long-term treatment of injured workers at different industries.

He said it would have been better if the mental and physical condition of the Rana Plaza victims were assessed one or two months after the world’s deadliest workplace disaster that killed 1,135 people. 

Wendy Werner, country manager of International Finance Corporation, said women workers needed more attention in terms of raising their health issues and accommodation for a better performance.

“If so, their performance will help add value to the products,” she said. 

According to her, Bangladesh is still at the entry point of ensuring compliance considering the highly competitive global supply chain. 

Wendy went on to say that energy efficiency and environmental compliances needed more attention as they were the key to prosperous growth in the readymade garment sector.

“After addressing all the issues, an effort must be given to bag higher prices,” she suggested. 

Firoz Alam, technical adviser of GIZ, said nothing would happen unless all the stakeholders stepped forward in a proactive manner.

“Any kind of pressure from different quarters would yield no good result,” he said.

Firoz mentioned that the employment injury insurance was missing in the country, which was a major loophole with regard to the injured workers’ right to get appropriate compensation.

Moderated jointly by the Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan and his deputy Reaz Ahmad, the discussion was attended, among others, by US embassy official Jim Town, Muhammad Ferdaus and IOL official George Feller.