Inspectors hired by Western retailers have been checking the structural safety of factories in Bangladesh. But a dispute has erupted between Bangladesh’s Inspector General of Factories and engineers from the group of retailers called Accord. The Bangladesh government is refusing to shut down garment factories declared unsafe.
The inspector general has refused since April to review or close down six factories, employing hundreds of workers, deemed unsafe after inspections. Accord represents some 150 mostly European retailers. The dispute centers on the estimated strength of the concrete in buildings made before 2005. Accord’s inspectors put the concrete strength significantly lower than estimates from the country’s main engineering university which advises the government.
The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology says accepting Accord’s recommendation on concrete strength would prove disastrous for the garment industry and would lead to the closure of at least half the garment factories. Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest clothing manufacturer. But the sector with some 3,500 factories has a woeful safety track record, highlighted by factory collapses and disasters.