The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a group of North American retailers, yesterday applauded Bangladesh for its progress in improving working conditions in garment factories.
“We have seen amazing commitments from the government, factory owners and buyers to ensure workplace safety in Bangladesh,” said Donald P Bliss, vice president of National Fire Protection Association, an American trade body and a partner of the Alliance on fire safety.
“Bangladesh can be a model for other countries,” he said.
Alliance leaders talked to the media during the second International Trade Expo for Building and Fire Safety, organised as part of Dhaka Apparel Summit at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital.
The expo is the largest gathering of fire and safety equipment vendors, factory representatives and other stakeholders in Bangladesh's history.
The event brings garment industry leaders together with leading international safety equipment vendors and experts to help increase access to the latest safety expertise, tools and technologies in Bangladesh.
Ellen Tauscher, chairperson of the Alliance, said Bangladesh has progressed to ensure workplace safety, but there is still much to be done.
“We have seen great progress -- from factory owners, safety experts, government, ILO and buyers -- into transforming Bangladesh's RMG industry,” she said.
But Tauscher, who is also a former member of the House of Representatives in the United States, said Bangladesh has to work every day, every week to sustain the efforts made by all stakeholders in the last one year.
She said the Alliance has accomplished its first-year goals by inspecting all its targeted 580 factories. It has also trained over one million workers and managers in its sourcing factories on fire safety procedures.
Replying to a query on Bangladesh's target to export $50 billion of garments by 2012, Tauscher said it is not achievable without adequate infrastructure, low cost energy, ports, roads and proper education.
“You need to have sustainable energy and a better educated workforce (who match the jobs),” she said.
Above all, there must be investment in the sector, she said.
Ali Ahmed Khan, director general of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said the government is working together with all stakeholders to reduce fire incidents in the country. As a result, he said fire accidents are decreasing by the day.
Khan also said they have suggested the government set up more fire stations to make the service capable of a quicker response to accidents.