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Digital Solution Used to Keep Workers Safe and Restart Bangladesh’s Manufacturing Sector

To successfully bring workers back to factories, both Industry Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have teamed up with SaaS innovator Inspectorio, whose Rise platform has been newly outfitted with a COVID-19-specific health and safety module. By developing and distributing health and safety guidelines to their respective factory members, these organizations will help Bangladeshi apparel manufacturing facilities reopen in the safest way possible.

As a major sourcing hub in the global supply chain, Bangladesh’s $286 billion economy leans heavily on its manufacturing, with garments and apparel comprising 84 percent of the country’s entire manufacturing output. COVID-19 struck the economy hard; of the 6 million Bangladeshi citizens working in ready-made garments, over a million had lost their jobs by the end of March due to supply-chain disruptions. This has made reopening the manufacturing sector an urgent priority, but one that must be carefully undertaken to avoid further outbreaks.

Companies throughout the manufacturing sector are eager to resume operations, but understand that doing so without adequate preparations would put their employees’ lives at risk. Among the 6 million garment workers in Bangladesh, each worker provides for an average of three family members, bringing the actual number of people dependent on the sector for their livelihoods to 24 million. This is but one factor adding urgency to reopening, and puts the now-familiar “safety versus economy” debate into stark relief.

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The key to reopening safely is mobilizing around common sets of health and safety standards; this is why both Industry Bangladesh and BGMEA have created their own COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines. However, for brands and retailers with numerous suppliers perched around the globe, implementing new workplace standards and facility audits across their supply chain has historically been an onerous task. To do so effectively, they must be able to deploy the new guidelines, monitor compliance and address non-compliance and areas to improve, all in a way that is fast and scalable.

Industry Bangladesh and BGMEA identified Inspectorio Rise as a unique solution to this challenge. The collaboration between these organizations comes in the wake of Inspectorio’s April announcement that it would be offering its Rise platform free of charge to help brands, retailers and manufacturers protect the lives of their workers.

Already in use by thousands of organizations for social, technical and environmental facility-level audits, Rise has now been outfitted with COVID-19-specific tools that allow companies to view real-time coronavirus statistics as well as facility compliance and assessment case information. For brands and retailers with overseas sourcing facilities, this capability allows them to quickly implement the same health and safety guidelines at multiple facilities, monitor their progress and automatically generate corrective and preventative action plans as needed, including in-built online training programs for continuous improvement. The platform is highly automated, making the process as simple as possible for brands and manufacturers alike.

COVID-19 poses a significant threat to Bangladesh’s citizens and workers. As of this writing, the country has reported 60,391 cases and 811 deaths. Its population and population density—165 million and 1,265 people per square kilometer, respectively—are both the eighth highest in the world. Its weak healthcare system is unequipped to handle large-scale outbreaks. As economies reopen and lockdowns lift in countries where storefronts are located, its manufacturing sector will spring back to life, increasing the risk for virus transmission.

According to BGMEA, adopting protective guidelines across the industry is a shared responsibility. In a recent press release, BGMEA announced it will “leverage Inspectorio Rise to implement our COVID-19 Assessment at scale, helping to support the preparedness of our facility members to get back to work efficiently and safely.” The organization has streamlined the onboarding process for its factory members and set expectations for registration, assessments and continuous improvement.

With Inspectorio providing the tools, BGMEA hopes that Bangladesh can set a positive example for the rest of the world: “This is a unique opportunity for Bangladesh’s garment industry to position itself at the forefront of responsible production during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The COVID-19 health and safety guidelines created by BGMEA can be found here. Using Inspectorio Rise, BGMEA is currently rolling out this technology across the country, where facilities stalled by concern for their workers can put data-driven practices in place to keep them safe.

Similarly, Industry Bangladesh has created a separate set of guidelines hosted on Inspectorio Rise, which can be viewed here. By using the Rise platform to disseminate these guidelines, it aims to empower factories “to act in a swift and coordinated manner,” according to a recent press release. Industry Bangladesh has made these guidelines publicly available “as a sense of civic duty to help the nation’s vulnerable population.”

These two organizations are setting an example for how technology can enable the rapid deployment of health and safety practices in manufacturing facilities, at scale. In doing so, they hope to avoid both an economic and a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh by allowing workers to safely resume earning income during the coronavirus pandemic.

More information on how the Rise platform can be used to standardize COVID-19 safety practices is available here.