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Safety flaws in Bangla factories found

March 11: Nearly a year after a factory building collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 1,100 workers, engineering teams sponsored by western retailers have been rigorously inspecting that country’s garment industry, resulting in at least two temporary closings because of safety problems.

The inspection reports on the first 10 factories, which were released today and contain an unusual level of detail, found that some factories lacked adequate fire doors, did not have required sprinkler systems and had dangerously high weight loads on several floors.

The announced inspections were done through the Bangladesh Accord Foundation, a group of 150 clothing brands and retailers from more than 20 countries that plans to inspect 1,500 Bangladesh garment factories by early September.

“Our inspection programme is in full swing,” said Brad Loewen, the group’s chief safety inspector. “It’s big news that we’re in full flight.”

The programme has 38 teams of international engineers, who, with Bangladeshi engineers and technicians, plan to inspect 250 factories each month, doing fire, electrical and structural inspections on each.

The inspections released today found a lack of fire alarms, a requirement for better enclosure of electrical cables and a need to improve maintenance procedures for items like electrical wiring.

The inspections, done in November and December, do not highlight any problems as extreme as those that caused the collapse last spring of the Rana Plaza factory.

“The inspection reports contain an unprecedented level of detail and set a new standard in transparency and credibility,” said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, a labour federation that played a major role in setting up the accord.

At Alif Textiles, the inspectors found that the boiler rooms as well as storage areas holding combustible materials were not separated by fireproof construction. The inspectors said the seven-storey building, in Dhaka, did not have an automatic sprinkler system and that the factory’s fire alarm system was manual, was not loud enough.

 
 
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