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Bangladesh Inspects All Factories, Deems 3% Unsafe

Bangladesh has implored the United States to reinstate its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits this year and has pressed on in its efforts to shore up the garment sector in hopes of earning it back.

The Bangladesh government said Monday it has completed inspections of nearly all of the country’s export-oriented ready-made garment (RMG) factories—the government oversaw the inspection of 1,475 units and another 2,185 were assessed by the EU-organized Accord on Building Safety and Bangladesh and the U.S.-led Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

Of the total 3,660 inspected, 129, or 3 percent, were referred to a review panel for structural, fire and electrical safety standards that weren’t up to standard. Thirty-seven of those referred were shuttered.

“Following Rana Plaza, commitments were made to assess the structural integrity of all active export-oriented RMG factories to identify those with high risk of collapse,” Syed Ahmed, inspector general for the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE), said in an International Labour Organization (ILO) statement Monday. “Virtually all have now been inspected with 37 closed, helping avoid potential loss of life. We now turn our full attention to the challenge of remediation and ensuring a safer RMG sector for all who work in it.”

Completing the factory inspections was another step for Bangladesh toward commitments made as part of the National Tripartite Action Plan of Action on Fire Safety.

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The ILO-backed Tripartite plan, was created in answer to the Tazreen factory fire that killed more than 100 garment workers in Bangladesh, and includes comprehensive actions to avoid further fires, tragedies and deaths the U.S. said were required to provide a basis for reinstating GSP there.

Bangladesh has also worked to harmonize inspection standards, establish a review panel to asses factories deemed dangerous and fostered capacity building and collaboration between labor inspectors and fire service staff for follow-up on inspection reports.

Now that initial inspections have been completed, Bangladesh will turn its focus to remediation.

According to the ILO, DIFE inspectors have been trained to help factories develop corrective action plans and have launched a pilot initiative to help a first group of factories do so using guidelines for detailed engineering assessments. So far, 1,778 inspection summary reports have been made available online to boost transparency.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) are working in conjunction with the government to develop more accurate lists of RMG factories in Bangladesh and so far “considerable progress has been made,” according to the ILO.

“Carrying out these inspections is a significant milestone yet it is only the beginning. Our full attention must now turn to remediation. ILO will help build the capacity of the Bangladesh authorities to put in place an effective system for all remediation and regulatory oversight once the support of partners ends,” ILO’s Bangladesh country director Srinivas Reddy, said. “We appeal to employers organizations to actively work with factory management to produce Corrective Action Plans for remediation. This is in the best interest of worker safety and will also give confidence to the buyer community.”

The U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, met with the country’s Minister for Road Transport and Bridges, according to News Hour, and said efforts to strengthen security have been “positive” and “satisfactory,” and reportedly said the U.S. is working with Bangladesh’s commerce department to restore GSP facilities.