To mark its first anniversary, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (the Accord), invited a group of national and international journalists to accompany its inspectors to four factory inspections this week in an effort to increase transparency.
Since the agreement, a partnership between brands, retailers, global unions and national ready-made garment (RMG) affiliates to improve factory safety in Bangladesh, was established in May 2013, the Accord said it has made headway gaining more signatories and completing more than 800 inspections for fire, electrical and structural safety. This week the Accord disclosed the reports and corrective plans for 50 factories and will release all reports in the coming months.
The Accord made filmed footage and photography from the press factory tour available to all interested journalists. Brad Loewen, chief safety inspector of the Accord, said the footage provides insight to the independent, engineering-based inspections and some of the typical fire, electrical and structural safety risks the Accord aims to repair.
Typical findings during inspections included unsound electrical wiring, lack of automated smoke detectors and fire alarm systems; the need for fire protected exits and fire doors; failure to have proper load management plans, and in some cases, the need to strengthen columns and other structural elements. Loewen said corrective actions are already underway.
Contrary to a recent Reuters’ report that indicated the Accord is responsible for arbitrary shutdowns and flip-flopping on safety regulations, the Accord said that during the course of the 800 factory inspections, Accord structural engineers identified critical structural findings in just 14 buildings that they deemed to be unsafe for production and occupancy in its current state.
“In these cases, the efforts of the Accord focus on expediting the required remedial measures so the factory can be safely re-opened as quickly as possible and ensuring that workers’ employment is maintained and their wages continue to be paid while remediation takes place,” Rob Wayss, executive director Bangladesh Operations, explained.
The Accord also refuted Reuters’ claim that its group of European retailers and the North American brands-led Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety are now in debate with factory owners over who foots the bill for improvements. In a statement, the Accord noted that it is focused on making these improvements financially feasible through negotiations and alternative measures like loans to ensure the factory has the capacity to meet the requirements.