Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Inspections of nearly 2000 export-oriented apparel factory buildings that are not already part of two separate initiatives by retailers and brands in Europe and North America to audit all their supplier factories in Bangladesh started on Friday.

Thirty expert teams of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) are assessing the factory buildings both for structural integrity and fire and electrical safety.

“The inspections will help ensure the safety of all workers in the country’s apparel sector and prevent tragic events like Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse from happening again,” Mikail Shipar, labour secretary, told BBN in Dhaka.

He also said the BUET experts will assess 200 factory building within the next two months. “We’re working to complete assessment of all factory buildings within the next one-and-half-year.”

“A garment factory located at Demra in the capital was assessed by a BUET expert team today in line with the National Tripartite Committee (NTC) yesterday’s meeting decision,” a spokesperson of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) told BBN in Dhaka.

The NTC of key stakeholders in the country’s readymade garment (RMG) sector including key government agencies, employers and trade unions has endorsed harmonised minimum standards against which the building assessments are being carried out.

The decision follows the joint development and finalization of the standards at an ILO-facilitated workshop earlier this month by technical experts of the three initiatives: Accord, Alliance as well as BUET on behalf of the NTC.

The spokesperson also said the ILO is assisting the government in conducting such inspection under it’s a programme, launched on October 22, to improve working conditions in the country’s apparel sector.   

The three-and-a-half year initiative – 'Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector' (RMGP) – focuses on minimising the threat of fire and building collapse in RMG factories and on ensuring the rights and safety of workers.

It was set up in response to the fire at Tazreen Fashion last November and the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in April – which between them led to the loss of more than 1,200 lives.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an alliance of more than 100 European-based retailers, would inspect another 1,500 factories, while the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, another coalition of 26 retailers mainly based in North America, would look into more than 500 factories.

Currently, around 4000 garment factories are function across the country. 

BBN/SSR/AD-22Nov13-6:39 pm (BST)