Fire safety violations spotted at 979 factories in 2 months
Factory inspection teams have identified fire safety infractions at around 979 units in the past two months.
In some cases, building codes were not up to the mark while fire safety measures, such as the availability of fire hydrants, were entirely absent.
The Daily Star was informed of this situation by a number of factory inspection team members.
Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida) started inspecting factories to gauge their compliance with the country's workplace safety regulations on November 11.
"We found that a good number of factories have no fire safety measures," said Mohammad Nazmul Ahsan, additional deputy commissioner (revenue) of Chattogram district.
Some factories even do not comply with building regulations, which is risky considering the potential hazards.
"So, we are sending these findings and our recommendations on the inspected factories to the higher authority," he added.
However, Ahsan went on to say that a good number of factories were found to be compliant.
Monin Bhuiyan, a factory inspection team member, said they found poor fire safety measures at around 50 per cent of the factories in Gazipur, particularly in textile and spinning mills.
They also found that many dyeing units do not even have proper effluent treatment facilities, meaning their untreated discharge was polluting the environment.
Md Shameem Bepari, additional deputy commissioner of Narayanganj district and also convener of the district's factory inspection teams, said they were finding problems, including a lack of fire safety measures and activities causing pollution.
Abhijit Chowdhury, executive member-1 of Bida, said a total of 979 factories had been inspected by 108 inspection teams in eight divisional cities and different districts as of January 11.
In Chattogram, 11 inspection teams conducted factory inspections on 479 units in different parts of the region till January 11.
A total of 179 factories were inspected in Dhaka while 98 factories were inspected in Gazipur and 99 factories in Narayanganj.
Companies in the chemical, plastic, and food processing sectors were given priority for safety inspections in the first phase of the government's move to ensure adequate infrastructure and fire safety measures at all industrial units, according to Bida sources.
Chowdhury, also central coordinator of the factory inspection committee, said it was really tough to maintain the inspection schedule managing officials from eight government agencies, including that for the environment and fire service.
According to Chowdhury, around 5,000 factories will be inspected in the first phase in Dhaka, Chattogram, Narayanganj and Gazipur, where one third of the country's factories are located. The first phase of the factory inspections will run for three months.
At least two factories are being inspected each day by at least one team.
Chowdhury went on to say that the inspection teams regularly send reports on their findings.
"We will later prepare a common record on a national scale for the government, which will then take an appropriate decision," he said.
From memory Chowdhury recalled that fire extinguishers were available at 95 per cent of factories but there was a lack of proper management as the cylinders were seldom refilled.
Earlier last year a fire at the Hashem Foods factory in Narayanganj left over 50 dead.
This prompted the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to announce a 24-member committee headed by Salman F Rahman, the prime minister's adviser for private industry and investment, to help prevent such incidents.
Afterwards the PMO ordered relevant authorities to launch an inspection campaign across Bangladesh.1
It appointed Bida to lead it in coordination with business associations such as the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Chowdhury said a total of 46,100 factories across the country would undergo safety inspections in phases.