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New Survey Says Bangladesh Factory Conditions Actually Not So Bad

A new survey of factory conditions in Bangladesh found that most do abide by workplace safety standards, but there are some safety concerns that still need attention.

In light of the tragedies that befell Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry over the last year, the country’s ministry of labor and employment commissioned the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) to conduct a thorough assessment of workplace conditions and current levels of compliance.

The study found that nearly 81 percent of the factories do have approved structural designs, 86 percent have adequate factory layouts and 92 percent have updated fire safety licenses, Bangladesh’s The Daily Star reported. Roughly 93 percent of the factories surveyed have enough hose reels to put out a fire, and 99 percent have an alarm system in place for fire or other potential disasters.

But the biggest problem is the emergency exits. Only 19 percent of factories were found to have separate emergency exits, but some factory owners argued that their buildings have more than one staircase, and one can be used should workers need to escape. However, in case of fires on lower floors, exiting through a traditional staircase not designed as an emergency exit may not be viable.

In addition to that, 81 percent of the factories responding have warehouses located on ground floors, which also adds risk. And although it is mandatory for factories not to have electric connections inside warehouses so as to avoid fire initiation, 33 percent of those surveyed still have it.

The survey was mailed out as a two-page questionnaire to the 6,304 factories that are members of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association between the first week of June 2013 and the end of July 2013. However, the response rate was low, as only 756 factories (less than 12 percent) answered. A representative sample of 100 factories was taken from those respondents following a stratified random sampling process.

BIDS submitted the report to Bangladesh’s labor ministry last week, and although it is too early to tell whether the survey is in fact a fair representation of the conditions in the country, the ministry is due to meet with members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the Accord on 
Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to dissect and discuss the findings, the Daily Star reported.