The government’s efforts to inspect readymade garment (RMG) factories for structural, fire and electrical safety have reached a 1,000-factory mark.
Following the Rana Plaza collapse, the immediate priority was to carry out safety inspections of all the 3,508 export-oriented RMG factories throughout Bangladesh.
Till date, some 2,904 RMG factories have been inspected of which 1,000 fall under the government's National Initiative under the Tripartite Plan of Action, supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with backing from Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, according to ILO.
A further 1,904 factories have been inspected by the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. In all, 604 factories from the original list remain to be inspected.
Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments said, "This is a significant milestone as we seek to create a safer RMG sector for Bangladesh. We’re now making concerted efforts to complete as many inspections as possible by the July-31 deadline. We shall not compromise on the safety of
workers. After this date, factories will no longer receive inspections for free and will need to meet the costs themselves if they wish to continue exporting."
He said the National Initiative is now moving into the factory remediation phase with a pilot programme which sees DIFE inspectors explaining the process of developing Corrective Action Plans to a select number of factories.
"This will provide useful experience and lessons on the time, skills and resources needed to manage this process before it is fully rolled out to all factories under the National Initiative," he added.
Inspection of all 1,827 factories under the national initiative has been hampered due to the number of factories having closed, moved or changed contact details.
Significant efforts involving Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and ILO are underway to create a comprehensive and accurate list of actively exporting RMG factories.
This will be a valuable tool and form the basis for future follow-up activities and knowledge management systems.
Srinivas Reddy, ILO Country Director for Bangladesh highlighted that the scope of the National Initiative goes far beyond carrying out factory inspections.
"The national initiative has seen an intensive process of cooperation and collaboration on areas such as the harmonization of inspection standards and reporting.
Considerable efforts have also been made to establish management processes within regulators to effectively follow up on inspection reports in a systematic and transparent manner," he said.