The ready-made garment factories under the National Initiative inspection still pose a threat to workplace safety as they are yet to commence the remediation process to improve safety standards.
After the Rana Plaza factory disaster, global buyers took initiatives and formed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to improve safety standards in the RMG sector from where they source products.
Later, the Bangladesh government in cooperation with the ILO formed another platform – National Initiative (NI) – to inspect the factories not covered by the two initiatives of Accord and Alliance to improve safety standards.
A number of 1,549 factories have been inspected under the National Initiative, which were not suppliers to the Western retailers that have launched two separate groups – Accord and Alliance – to inspect their own supplier factories.
During the inspection which ended on October 31, 2015, the government team assessed 1,475 factories.
Of them, 34.8% received green mark (fully safe), 47.3% yellow mark (safe to some extent), 15.4% amber (having safety concerns and needing DEA) and 0.4% red-amber (risky), 1.2% red (under assessment of review panel) and 1% black.
Following the inspection report, NI prescribed remediation, but is yet to start the process due to lack of engineers and professionals. On the other hand, the owners blamed the lack of government support and delayed decision.
As of on Saturday, only four factory owners have had their Corrective Action Plans (CAPs) approved.
“The remediation will start very soon as the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) has already selected 26 engineering firms that will work on structural safety,” Md Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan, inspector general, DIFE, told the Dhaka Tribune.
Another 20 engineering firms have been primarily selected for fire and electrical safety issues, added the official.
“We are very close to getting 90 engineers for the inspection who will oversee the overall process.”
According the DIFE primary scrutiny, of the 1,549 buildings inspected under the National Initiatives, 500 RMG units are operating in their own building while the rest are housed either in shared or rented buildings.
The DIFE will hold meeting with the RMG factory owners running business in their own building and would set a time frame to complete the inspection process.
Those who run business in shared and rented buildings will have to relocate to their own buildings, or else they will be asked to close shop, said Shamsuzzaman.
But some factory owners are doing their self-assessment on fire, electrical and structural safety to start reforms as per the recommendations by the NI, he added.
“Workplace safety at the country’s RMG sector has improved a lot and there is no doubt about that, but the concern is about the factories under the NI, which are yet to start the remediation process,” Sirajul Islam Rony, president of the Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League told the Dhaka Tribune.
The government and the stakeholders will have to develop a mechanism with skilled manpower to complete remediation as soon as possible to avert any further disaster, he said.
Seeking anonymity, a factory owner claimed that they cannot start remediation as the DIFE is not equipped with skilled manpower to approve the action plans.
He urged the government to start the process, otherwise it would hurt their business.