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84% of Accord-Covered Factories in Bangladesh Lack Fire Alarms

As the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh transitions into the tripartite Ready-made Garment Sustainability Council (RSC), more work still needs to be done in terms of outstanding remediations, according to the organization’s latest quarterly progress report.

Of the 1,618 factories inspected by the Accord since 2013, more than 84 percent (1,361) have yet to install and verify their fire detection and alarm systems, while nearly 70 percent (1,124) have yet to install and verify fire suppression systems such as fire extinguishers and sprinklers. Another 30 percent (498) have yet to complete structural retrofitting based on engineering assessments.

Other remediations were more of a mixed bag. Of the 1,255 factories with lockable/collapsible gates, only 1 percent (21) had not rectified the problem. In the case of the 1,188 factories with non-compliant stair openings, 20 percent (239) were still in violation.

The Accord said it required 63 factory buildings to temporary evacuate after initial or follow-up inspections revealed a “severe and imminent risk” of structural failure or serious electrical and fire hazards. In more than 200 factories, it recommended immediate load reduction measures in the form of removing storage or emptying water tanks to prevent the risk of a building collapse and continue partial production.

Only 273 factories have completed their initial remediation, the Accord said, even though progress across the board clocks in at 91 percent as of Jan 1, 2020.

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To date, the Accord has trained more than 1,270 safety committees to “recognize, solve and prevent” health and safety issues in their factories. It has also educated 1.8 million workers about workplace safety.

The RSC is set to inherit all operations all operations, staff, infrastructure and functions of the Accord Office on June 1, 2020, upon which it will continue with factory inspections, remediation monitoring and workplace programs. The RSC will be headed by a board of directors comprising an equal number of representatives from industry, brands and trade unions, and will “closely cooperate with and support the regulatory functions of the government of Bangladesh,” the Accord noted.

The RSC will also work with the Accord Foundation in the Netherlands to access any data and information required to manage the new legally binding agreement brand signatories are currently negotiating over. This agreement will supersede the active but transitional 2018 version, which incorporated a pilot boiler safety program after a series of boiler explosions occurred over the past several years.

The Accord was initially forged in the aftermath 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, which killed 1,137 workers and injured thousands more just outside the capital of Dhaka. It was originally due to expire in five years but received an extension from the Bangladeshi Supreme Court. It was the first agreement of its kind, one that eschewed self-regulated audits for “something which had muscle,” according to Léonie Guguen ofIndustriAll Global Union.