Bangladesh needs to get ready its institutional, regulatory and oversight mechanisms relating to building and fire safety to ensure a safe working environment in the readymade garment sector once the current support from external partners ends, speakers told a workshop here on Tuesday.
The workshop, titled ‘Institutional Collaboration on Strengthening Building and Fire Safety Inspection Systems in the RMG Sector’, brought together key government institutions, employers and workers organizations to explore areas and opportunities for more effective collaboration on building, fire and electrical safety.
It was jointly organized by the government of Bangladesh as well as two International Labor Organization (ILO) initiatives -- the Improving Fire and General Building Safety in Bangladesh project funded by the US Department of Labor and the Improving Working Conditions in the RMG sector Program funded by Canada, the Netherlands and the UK.
“We all recognize that responsibility to ensure a safe readymade garment sector lies in the hands of the relevant government authorities here in Bangladesh. ILO, international donors, Accord, Alliance and BUET are providing support in this regard by carrying out inspections and providing training.
However, we need to look at what comes next and prepare for the day when the authorities are able to carry out this role with confidence and to international standards without donor or industry support,” said Srinivas B Reddy, ILO Country Director.
Speaking at the event, Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Kham, Director General of the Fire Service and Civil Defense Department, highlighted the need for the modernization of the fire service as well as fire safety regulations in line with internationally acceptable standards.
“We’ve taken a lot of measures to improve fire safety but still many challenges remain such as water and equipment shortages, unregulated buildings and traffic congestion. We must take more preventative measures and increase the number of fire stations in RMG areas,” he said.
Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), expressed his hope that the process would deliver real benefits in the future.
Key national and international stakeholders from the RMG sector participated in the event.
Those included representatives of ministries and agencies like the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Department of Inspections for Factories and Establishments (DIFE), Ministry of Housing and Public Works, Ministry of Home Affairs, Capital Development Authority of Bangladesh (Rajuk) as well as the Fire Safety and Civil Defense Department.
The workshop was also attended by representatives of the Bangladesh Employers Federation (BEF), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufactures and Exporters Association (BKMEA), Accord, Alliance, National Coordination Committee for Workers Education (NCCWE), and IndustriAll Bangladesh Council (IBC). Technical agencies such as Buet as well as civil society organizations were also invited to participate.
The Readymade Garment (RMG) is a strategic sector for the Bangladeshi economy, with an estimate of 3,500 export factories in operation, providing employment for over 4.2 million workers. Industry exports totalled $21.5 billion in 2012-2013, making Bangladesh one of the world's leading apparel exporters.
Enhanced fire safety emphasized