As remediation for rampant RMG factory fails gets underway, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has outlined guidance for its factories and signatories on how to go forward with facility upgrades.
Following apparel industry tragedies in Bangladesh like the Tazreen factory fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse—which together took the lives of more than 1,200 workers—and the subsequent media fury over subpar safety, organizations have worked to establish improved safety and structural conditions to avoid future calamities.
In its guidance, the Accord, an agreement to better conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry, signed by more than 180 brands including H&M, Inditex and Fast Retailing, provided a list of suppliers to help factories source requisite fire equipment and requirements for fire protection system designs.
According to the guidelines, “All fire alarm designs, sprinkler system designs and standpipe (hydrant) designs shall be submitted to the Accord for review prior to installation.” If installations are done without prior review, the Accord warned that it might not recognize the system and approve the factory to proceed with operations.
Under Bangladesh’s national building code and Accord and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety standards, collapsible doors or gates are prohibited at exit routes in factories. The Accord said all such doors must be removed and fire doors can only be equipped with locks that permit locking from the outside but can still be opened from the inside. Locked doors inside Rana Plaza reportedly prevented workers from escaping, leading some to refer to the factory as a “death trap.”
All fire doors must be certified and manufactured by an authorized fire door manufacturer, and since none exist in Bangladesh, the government has eliminated tariffs on imports of the doors to allow for increased compliance. In its guidance, the Accord said, however, “The inspections initiatives are receiving information that fire doors are being marketed which have inauthentic seals or labels which are not really certified doors. These do not meet the Accord, Alliance, or national standards. If installed, they would have to be replaced by actual certified fire doors.”
Those purchasing fire doors should ask suppliers for third party certification, from Intertek or Warrington, for example, to ensure the certifications are legitimate, or send the manufacturer’s information to the Accord to determine acceptability.
Fire doors must be equipped with panic hardware and a self-closing device, and the door must close and latch after use or be equipped with a magnetic hold open device designed to release on fire alarm. Factories must also undergo detailed engineering assessments (DEAs), and the conducting firm should have at least five years in business and me approved by the Accord. No retrofitting work or building additions are allowed without prior approval from the Accord.
The Accord has made its engineering team available to advise on remediation related matters as it works to rectify the more than 80,000 safety issues it identified during inspections of the 1,106 factories producing for its signatory brands.