Suppliers’ reforms progressing: H&M

Remediation in factories from which Swedish retail giant H&M sources has progressed significantly, the company said in a statement.

H&M, which is the largest apparel buyer from Bangladesh, purchases about $5 billion of products annually from 255 factories.

Remediation was initially delayed, partly due to import delays of upgraded safety equipment as well as a shortage of technical expertise needed to conduct detailed engineering assessments, planning and submissions of drawings and installation of technical equipment.

“However, now the remediation is showing progress,” H&M said, adding that it is now working closely with IndustriALL, a global union federation, to further speed up the process.

As of March 31, all locking features as well as collapsible, rolling shutter and sliding doors have been removed from the factories. Some 46 factories have installed new upgraded fire doors at every exit, enabling a safe evacuation. The doors are self-closing and have a fire-resistant function preventing the fire or smoke from spreading within the building.

All high-rise buildings must be provided with automatic fire sprinkler systems that would spray water throughout in case of a fire.

Some 115 of the factories are located in high-rise buildings and of them 18 have installed the sprinkler systems.

“All factories producing for H&M should be safe and all workers should feel safe at their everyday workplace. These are key concerns for H&M.”

In general, there is a need for improving fire and safety in Bangladesh -- a country where poor electrical installations and bad maintenance are common, according to the statement.

As a consequence, the textile industry is now undergoing substantial transformation and is now converting to Western safety standards.

“This is a huge and complex work.”

H&M is one of the 200 signatories of the Accord, a five-year independent, legally binding agreement between global brands and trade unions designed to build a safe and healthy Bangladeshi garment industry.

“With this commitment, we are able -- together with other companies, global trade unions, employers’ organisations and the Bangladeshi government -- to actively influence and contribute to improved workplace safety in the textile industry.”  The initiative is aiming to improve the situation of about 1,600 factories, of which 255 make goods for H&M.

As part of the transformation to updated international standards, all of the supplier factories that H&M works with in Bangladesh underwent additional safety inspections by the Accord during 2014-2015.

Apart from the Accord's inspection conditions, H&M has some additional, but mandatory inspection requirements for its suppliers. These are: two emergency exists on each floor, fire alarm installed on a separate power line but connected to its own generator, emergency lights connected to a battery in case of power failure.

The other mandatory conditions are fire extinguishers clearly marked and tested, easy to understand evacuation plans posted on the walls, regular fire evacuation drills for all employees and all shifts.


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