The BGMEA has taken a stance against inspection standards set by platforms of foreign retailers and brands, saying many of their clauses are not in the national building code and too strict for small and medium garment factories in Bangladesh.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a forum of 150 European retailers and brands, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety, a platform of 26 US-based companies, were set to start visiting factories in a month or two.
But the inspection might get delayed as the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) last week wrote to the commerce and labour and employment ministries and expressed its opposition to the codes set by the Accord and Alliance.
“In the letters, I urged the government to re-fix the standards in line with the national building code so that every factory can meet the standards,” BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said yesterday.
Many small and medium factories will not be able to meet the standards set by the foreign bodies and subsequently lose business, he said.
The BGMEA boss added that many of the clauses of the Accord and Alliance are not included in the Bangladesh National Building Code (BNBC).
“We want the Accord and Alliance to fully follow the BNBC,” he told The Daily Star over the phone. “We do not agree on any code which is not in the BNBC.”
An official of the Alliance, wishing anonymity, said, “The BGMEA might not agree on codes not mentioned in the BNBC because of higher cost and time-consuming process.
“Many factory buildings will have to be demolished if the standards are followed strictly.”
After the twin industrial disasters -- Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse -- the Accord and Alliance were formed to monitor and ensure factory safety in Bangladesh.
The European platform will inspect more than 1,600 factories while the American body will visit nearly 700 units.
The government has also formed 30 panels under Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) to check 2,000 garment factories. The Buet teams started their inspection in November last year.
Contacted last night, BGMEA Vice-President Reaz-Bin-Mahmood said in a country like Bangladesh, it is “not possible” to enforce the standards of the US and European nations.
For example, he said, the Accord and Alliance want the factories to use very thick electrical coils. But no company in this country produce such coils.
The inspection agencies also want fire sprinkler system in the factories and this is not stated in the BNBC.
The fire sprinkler system is a protection measure used worldwide. A sprinkler sprays water when a fire breaks out and a predetermined temperature is exceeded.
Reaz-Bin-Mahmood said if any electrical bulb is burst out, the sprinkler system will be turned on only to create panic among the workers and other people in the factories.
“We have to gradually improve the standards,” he said. “We do not want any repetition of Rana Plaza or Tazreen incidents.”
Asked, Mikail Shipar, secretary to the ministry of labour and employment, said the Accord and Alliance prepared the factory inspection standards without consulting the government.
“We will try to make a common set of standards for all inspection agencies,” Shipar said.
“I have already asked the ILO (International Labour Organisation) to arrange a meeting involving the Alliance, Accord, BGMEA, Buet and other stakeholders for making a common set of factory inspection standards.”