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Follow-up inspections in RMG factories stressed

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Staff reporter
Speakers at a workshop have stressed systematic and comprehensive follow up of fire and structural inspections of readymade garment (RMG) factories by the Department of Inspections of Factories and Establishments (DIFE).
The workshop, held in the city on Tuesday, on case management and follow up to the structural building and fire safety assessment of RMG factories was organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as part of its Improving Working Conditions in the RMG sector program funded by Canada, the Netherlands and the UK, a media release said on Wednesday.
The event brought together some 30 DIFE inspectors who were joined by technical specialists from the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and Bangladesh University for Engineering and Technology (BUET). The Accord and Alliance, which represent the international brands and retailers sourcing from Bangladesh, shared best practice with the DIFE inspectors on how they ensure RMG factories put into place the remediation steps identified by inspections.
BUET staff also provided insight into prioritizing recommendations for follow up.
“The Department of Inspections of Factories and Establishments has been considerably strengthened since the Rana Plaza collapse in terms of personnel, budget and training.
“However, equally important is the establishment of internal management processes to effectively follow up on the findings of fire and structural inspections in a systematic, comprehensive and transparent manner in respect of every single factory,” said Srinivas B. Reddy, ILO Country Director for Bangladesh.
He said that this is a vital step in addressing immediate safety concerns as well as preparing DIFE to take on greater long-term responsibility for compliance and regulatory oversight within the RMG industry.
Looking to the future, a similar process will also need to be undertaken with the Fire Service and Civil Defense Department and RAJUK in view of their important role relating to fire and building safety and the large number of factories to be monitored, he added.
Areas looked at during the workshop included appointment of case handlers for each factory, the remediation systems currently used by Accord and Alliance, the prioritization of issues requiring immediate or less urgent follow up, workflows and the management of factory “case loads” by inspectors.
Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza in April 2013 efforts were immediately launched to inspect all 3,500 RMG factories throughout Bangladesh for fire and structural safety.
By the end of November 2014 some 60% had been inspected by the Accord, Alliance and Bangladesh University for Engineering and Technology (BUET) under the National Tripartite Plan of Action.
Inspections carried out by BUET are being acted upon by the DIFE inspectors, while the Accord and Alliance are using their own teams of engineers to carry out the same task.
The three-and-a-half year Improving Working Conditions in the Ready Made Garment (RMG) Sector Program focuses on improving RMG factory building safety, workers’ rights and overall working conditions in Bangladesh.
The initiative will run until December 2016. The Readymade Garment (RMG) sector is integral to 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.