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Bangladesh Accord Issues Inspections Standards

After months of often tense discussions, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (AFBSB) finally arrived at an agreement regarding the new inspection standards that will apply to all its signatory members.

These standards largely apply to factory building safety with particular reference to fire and electrical ordinances. As AFBSB’s website explains, the new strictures are the result of a collaborative effort that involved input from several sources: the National Tripartite Plan of Action, the Alliance for Bangladeshi Worker Safety (ABWS) and the International Labor Organization. The final product is based on the existing Bangladesh National Building Code, albeit in thoroughly revised form.

Also, the cooperation between ABWS and AFBSB is noteworthy given their competition with each other to be the primary source of factory reform in Bangladesh, a contest that has often turned acrimonious. After the Rana Plaza tragedy last April, the two consortia of retailers who outsource apparel production to factories in Bangladesh were separately created to supervise desperately needed reforms and finance costly factory improvements. The E.U. led Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (AFBSB) plans to inspect the approximately 1,000 factories that directly supply them with garments. There is also a U.S.-brokered Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety that covers another 500. However, the new report only legally applies to members of AFBSB and is issued only in its own name.

According to the report just issued by the AFBSB, the “purpose of this Standard is establish a common set of minimum requirements that provide a uniform and effective method for assessing fire and building structural safety in new and existing ready made garment factories utilized by Accord suppliers.” The wide-ranging report issues guidelines that cover fire protection construction, fire protection systems, means of egress, building materials, structural design, construction practices and safety, building services, and “human element programs,” which refers to subjects like fire drills, evacuations plans and the assignment of administrative responsibility.

The entire report can be read here.