Bangladesh is making efforts to improve conditions in its readymade garment industry. Over 1,500 RMG factories have been inspected for structural, fire and electrical safety. Rana Plaza survivors have been supported while the Better Work program currently works to enhance compliance and productivity in over 100 garment factories.
The capacity of the department of inspections for factories and establishments has been greatly enhanced. Work to strengthen regulatory capacity as well as build occupational safety and health capabilities of employers’ and workers’ organizations is also likely to continue. A training program has been launched for some eight lakh readymade garment workers. This training is expected to contribute greatly to that goal as both workers and employers will benefit from improved safety practices.
In Bangladesh, the readymade garment industry accounts for 80 per cent of exports and, as a result, is of paramount importance to the economic health of the country. Despite its economic importance, or perhaps because of it, enforcement of building codes for factories has historically been lax, leading to an entire industry rife with unsafe working conditions.
The lack of fire safety was well known due to a long record of fatal factory fires, including a fire in late 2012 that killed 112 workers. By early 2013, several international retailers with supply chains based in Bangladesh factories had already embarked on fire inspection programs, but until the Rana Plaza tragedy no one considered structural safety to be a fundamental concern.