DHAKA: Safety experts hired by Western retailers such as H&M and Benetton will begin a mass inspection on Wednesday of clothing factories in Bangladesh, nearly a year after 1,135 garment workers died in a building collapse.
Dozens of fire officers and structural engineers will begin inspecting more than 1,500 plants and then recommend safety improvements in an exercise that is expected to last until September.
Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest clothing manufacturer and the sector is the mainstay of the impoverished South Asian nation’s economy.
But the sector has a woeful safety track record, which was highlighted in November 2012 by a fire at the Tazreen factory in Dhaka when 111 workers were killed, many of whom were unable to escape because of a lack of proper fire exits.
Less than six months later, 1,135 people were killed when the nine-story Rana Plaza complex collapsed on the outskirts of the capital in Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial disaster.
Experts say the complex—which was only licensed for four-story—crumbled as it had been constructed with sub-standard materials and without proper surveys of the site.
Bosses had also set up huge generators on the ceiling, which triggered the collapse when they all automatically clicked on following a power cut.
Spanish fashion chain Mango, Britain’s Primark, Italy’s Benetton, Sweden’s H&M and the sports brand Adidas were among the host of big Western brands to sign up to an accord in the aftermath of the disaster in which they agreed to bankroll the safety inspections and loan the money for upgrades.
The brands signed the legally-binding accord several weeks after the April 24 disaster, following widespread accusations that they had been turning a blind eye to shoddy safety standards in a country where textile workers had been paid as little as $38 a month.