At least 11 workers suffered mild injuries after a conflagration broke out at a readymade garment factory in the Bangladeshi city of Gazipur last week.
The May 23 fire at Raiyan Knit Composite, which is covered by the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, a successor to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, was the second to happen at the apparel manufacturer in less than a week. Both incidents took place on different floors of the same fabric-storage building. The cause of the incidents is still unknown, according to the Ready-made Garment Sustainability Council (RSC), which took over the Accord’s inspection and remediation duties in 2020.
“We have deployed two investigation teams to investigate the cause of the repeated fire incidents and subsequent loss and damage,” Iqbal M Hussain, managing director and acting chief safety officer at the RSC, told Sourcing Journal. “The investigations are underway, and reports will be shared with relevant agencies in due course. Besides, our remediation case handler team is closely monitoring the post-fire situation and coordinating with the factory management.”
An engineering team conducted an initial inspection of the manufacturer in July 2014. The last follow-up for fire inspections, Hussain said, was in November 2020.
Nur Group, which owns Raiyan, did not answer a request for comment. Brands that source from the factory include Aldi North and South, OVS and Zara owner Inditex. All three are signatories of the current version of the Accord, which holds brands legally accountable for conditions at their factories until it expires at the end of 2023.
“We have been informed by our supplier and by RSC about the fire accident,” an OVS spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “The factory management is collaborating with the RSC to identify the root cause of the fire accident, which is still unknown.” Aldi North and South and Inditex did not respond to emails seeking a statement.
“Needless to say we are saddened to learn about the injured workers and hope for their quick and full recovery,” Joris Oldenziel, executive director of the International Accord, told Sourcing Journal. “It is important to stress that workers should not fight fires; they should immediately evacuate the building in case of a fire. We have included this issue in our safety committee training program and in our all-employee meetings, where we hand out booklets to the workers explaining what do to in case of a fire. It’s important that this message continues to be put across to workers and is supported by factory management and brands.”
Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign, the garment industry’s largest consortium of worker-rights organizations, urged the RSC to report publicly on their findings on both outbreaks once its investigation is complete.
“We are concerned to learn that, despite the factory falling under the RSC’s inspection program, this could not prevent two fires occurring less than one week apart,” she told Sourcing Journal. “These incidents show the need for continuous monitoring of safety risks at factories that have completed the large majority of remediation of safety risks identified during the initial inspections by the Accord.”
Zeldenrust said she trusts that Aldi North and South, OVS and Inditex, in partnership with the Accord, will ensure that “swift action” will be taken to remedy any issues that resulted in the blazes. “We also expect that those injured in the fire will receive compensation,” she added.