Over 35 percent of factories, retailers, consultants, trade unions and rights groups in a survey have given thumbs up to the international standard for factory inspection and called for implementation right away.
On the other hand, only 11 percent termed the standards, set to be implemented by companies from North America and Europe and the government in over 3,500 factories, too stringent. Over 42 percent said the inspection standards are good but would be hard to implement.
A total of 467 participants took part in the survey conducted by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a platform of 26 North American retailers at the two-day exposition on building and fire safety at Sonargaon Hotel in the city.
Mesbah Rabin, managing director of the Alliance in Bangladesh, presented the results at a press briefing yesterday.
Among the respondents, 64 percent are factory representatives, 18.1 percent brands, 4.7 percent consultancies and 2.8 percent NGOs and trade unions. The survey identified top three challenges for the country's garment factories: untrained management and supervisors, wrong attitude of management and untrained workers.
The respondents suggested providing training to managers and workers and increasing external monitoring to help the sector that hit the spotlight following the twin industrial disasters of Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse.
Meanwhile, organisers of the two-day exposition said the event has shone a spotlight on the need and opportunity to dramatically improve the safety of factory workers.
More than 2,600 participants and exhibitors representing 800 Bangladeshi factories and 40 engineering, technology and materials companies joined the fair, organised by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, with support from Accord on Fire and Building Safety, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, C&A Foundation and the International Finance Corporation.
Exhibitors from Bangladesh, India, the Middle East, China, the United States and Europe shared the latest in safety materials available to fortify factory enhancements.
BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said the garment sector is a vital source of economic security and upward mobility for millions of Bangladeshis.
“However, its measure of success must include its ability to provide safe conditions for workers—and it is our hope that the exposition will help achieve that.”
Rabin of the Alliance said: “Protecting the safety of factory workers means we all have a role to play.”
In response to queries from reporters that some retailers are withdrawing orders from suppliers which use shared buildings as factories, Rob Wayss, executive director of the Bangladesh operations of the Accord, said: “We are receiving some information suggesting some brands are leaving factories—we will look into the issue.”
He added that the Accord members cannot reduce order volumes in the next two years and leave the country for the next five years.
He also said the Accord, like the Alliance, would hire both foreign and Bangladeshi engineers to conduct the inspection in an effort to appease the garment factory owners who are opposed to the idea of using only external inspectors to conduct the inspection.