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Bangladesh Accord update: significant progress but still major life-threatening safety concerns

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord) has issued its quarterly progress report, finding that the overall remediation progress for the more than 1,600 factories covered by it stands at 80 percent. There is even 100 percent remediation from initial inspections at 120 factories and 90 percent or more at 665 factories. In addition, the Safety Committee training curriculum has been completed at 159 factories and 208 health and safety complaints have been resolved.

Thinking back to numerous garment factory fires and the collapse of the Rana Plaza building that triggered the massive remediation effort, it is reassuring to know that 94.8 percent of factories have removed lockable and/or collapsible gates, meaning workers have more chances of escaping the factory in an emergency. Prior to the initiative, factories often just had one escape route and door, which triggered panic among the workers and led to many being trapped.

Bangladesh Accord update: significant progress but still major life-threatening safety concerns

Another big problem was fire warning systems and sprinklers not being in place. As of 1st October, 2017, the full installation of such systems including final verification of testing and commissioning has been completed at a little less than one third (31.3 percent) of all factories. However, most of them have submitted fire alarm and fire detection design drawings to the Accord and are in the process of ordering and installing the systems.

After four years of work in Bangladesh, the Accord finds: "While marking this significant progress, major life-threatening safety concerns remain outstanding in too many factories and need to be fixed urgently. These include: inadequately protected fire exits, inadequate fire alarm and fire protection systems and outstanding structural retrofitting work."

This shows that it is necessary that the Accord be extended beyond its initial five-year duration, which will run out in May 2018, also in view of the Alliance for Worker Safety in Bangladesh not being extended beyond 2018 but being transitioned to various local stakeholders. An extension for another three years of the Accord has already been announced and 49 brands and retailers have already signed the new Accord, covering almost 1,200 of the current Accord factories. However, more still need to join.

Currently, the Accord "monitors completion of remediation at the 1600+ factories with more than 100 engineers on staff who conduct up to 500 follow-up inspections each month. Each factory covered by the Accord is inspected approximately once every three to four months. The Accord secretariat further conducts targeted remediation review meetings with individual signatory companies to identify high priority factories where remediation must be accelerated."

Thanks to refinements made to Accord’s data system, the remediation progress at all factories covered can now be analysed more in-depth by looking at the progress rate of the most common fire, electrical and structural items that need to be remediated. These and other details, including the progress made over the years, can be found in the latest quarterly report via the Accord's website, bangladeshaccord.org.

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Photos: Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh