Towards increased actions against factory fires in Bangladesh

20-12-2012

On 24 November, more than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured during a fire at Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh. Although the factory had no trade relations with any BSCI Participant, it was audited in December 2011 and rated 'improvement needed', notably with regard to several health and safety non-compliances. BSCI has taken this factory fire very seriously, and cannot deny the weak workplace safety regime in a country which relies heavily on its low/cost garment and textile industries for vital export earnings. This dramatic incident illustrates once again the need to continue and strengthen efforts to improve social compliance and ensure strict health & safety standards are being implemented. The BSCI audit results show us that health and safety issues are a persistent problem in Bangladesh. However, this also reminds us that audits do not prevent accidents from happening and they also do not solve non compliances. In this respect, BSCI recognises the need to urgently work in close cooperation, not only with you and your producers in Bangladesh, but also with the local government, the worker representations, the non-governmental organisations with the objective of making changes happen. After the fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions, BSCI took immediate action by publishing an official statement for the media and all the interested parties and by publishing FAQs to answer the concerns of our Participants.

The BSCI Steering Committee had an extraordinary conference call and identified several important issues to be addressed and implemented immediately: More stringent control of fire safety standards: An alert system will be set up to inform BSCI Participants in case fire safety non compliances are detected during the audit. Major non compliances will lead to a "non compliant" rating of the entire audit result. A 3-month deadline is envisaged to implement corrective actions. Those measures will be implemented as soon as possible in 2013. Increased unannounced Audits: Finally, from 2013, BSCI will roll out Random Unannounced Checks (RUC) of "Good" factories in order to encourage producers to constantly keep their efforts on labour requirements. This measure will have a focus on Bangladesh. The implementation plan is being developed and will be shared soon. Raising the awareness of buyers: BSCI will organise training sessions for buyers to raise more awareness on Health and Safety (H&S) issues. Training workshops of factory staff: The Tazreen fire has shown that there is a huge educational challenge with regard to the actions taken during a fire. BSCI will continue to roll out advanced workshops on H&S and is looking into embarking in a specific program on fire prevention. Several programs already exist, BSCI will enter into dialogue with the organisations driving them to decide which one offers the most productive and collective approach.

Worker-management project to promote better and safer working practices:
there is a low level of trust between workers and management in Bangladesh, making it impossible to discuss a common vision of a good work place. BSCI will enhance its BSCI Participation Committee project aiming at increasing the level of trust, calling upon BSCI Participants to join it. Better enforcement of existing regulations: Strict health and safety regulations exist in Bangladesh but they are not implemented. BSCI will continue to build stronger relations at the political level and call for a real enforcement of the existing laws. The FTA President Ferry den Hoed has already sent a letter to the Bangladesh Minister of Commerce, the Minister of Labour and the President of BGMEA (The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association), inviting them notably to join the Round Table of stakeholders organised in early 2013 in Dhaka. It is through your increased engagement -as BSCI participating companies- and in collaboration with other players in Europe and in Bangladesh that we can improve the prevention of such incidents in the future. We count on your support. Please continue to check the BSCI website and platform for further updates.

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