The Bangladesh textile industry suffered another tragedy on Wednesday.
A blaze claimed at least six workers’ lives when a fire, which began on the ground floor, spread through a four-story building located about 12 miles outside Dhaka, according to reports. Though the textile mill was closed at the time, some employees were on the premises and became trapped inside before firefighters could arrive.
It is believed that welding sparks started the fire, but the Dhaka Times reports a committee has been formed to confirm the cause. Four mill officials were brought before the police in connection with the incident, and the deputy commissioner in the town of Munshiganj said the families of those lost will be compensated with Tk 20,000 each.
The fire follows a boiler explosion in the region in July that claimed the lives of 10 factory workers in a facility that produced as many as 100,000 garments a day. The incident occurred despite claims that the apparel factory had been undergoing regular inspections.
Bangladesh has been struggling to improve working conditions and rebuild the apparel industry’s trust since the deadly Rana Plaza apparel factory collapse in 2013. That disaster killed more than 1,100 people and sparked the establishment of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Since then, more than 1,800 factories have been inspected, a process that uncovered more than 100,000 hazards, according to the Accord. Bangladesh has been actively working to address these issues and has successfully corrected more than 21,000 of these issues through remediation efforts.
Despite these strides, doubts remain about the safety of the garment sector there. A recent report by the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights says the first reason for concern is that organizations like the Bangladesh Garment Workers and Exporters Association report that there are about 4,000 factories in Bangladesh—a fact the researchers findings dispute. In fact, the true number is more than twice that, the report claims. If that is the case, it means thousands of workers are operating in factories that haven’t been account for, inspected, funded or remediated, putting them at risk.
[Read more about safety concerns in Bangladesh: New Report Casts Continued Doubt About the Safety of Bangladesh’s Garment Sector]
The $28-billion garment industry in Bangladesh is the world’s second largest after China, and makes up 80 percent of the country’s export revenue. The Accord—which consists of 190 apparel companies and various trade unions, including IndustriALL and UNI Global—was originally only intended to be in place until May 2018 but it will stay intact for a second five-year term in an effort to continue to protect the 4 million people working in the country’s ready made garment industry.
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