The Daily Star

Your Right To Know
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Front Page

RMG factories at high fire risk

Faulty equipment, lack of training and fire-drill causing death of workers

Shahnaz lost her husband, Alamgir, in a fire at Garib & Garib sweater factory in Gazipur on Thursday. Now she has nobody to depend on but a nine-month baby to bring up all alone. Alamgir had been a worker at the factory for last eight years. The photo was taken near Gazipur Sadar Hospital yesterday morning. Photo:Anisur Rahman

Absence of regular emergency evacuating drills puts a garment factory in danger whenever a fire breaks out, though lack of fire fighting equipment at the building is always brought to the forefront as main reason behind the fatality.

The factory owners take licences from the fire service authorities by showing only some fire fighting equipment. In most cases, they do not prepare their staff members for such eventuality, said Abdur Rashid, deputy director of Fire Service and Civil Defence (Dhaka division).

Rashid said the owners even do not take initiative to refill or refit the equipment on expiry. Fire extinguishers are often found ineffective.

Fire service had asked the owners to set up hydrant points, build underground reservoirs with a capacity of one lakh gallon water and set up a pump with the capacity of lifting 300 to 350 litre water. "We had also asked the owners to install smoke and heat detectors," he said.

The Garib & Garib sweater factory in Gazipur, where a fire broke out Thursday night leaving at least 21 persons dead, also had extinguishers, but the staff and workers had no idea about their operation.

Since 1990, more than 240 people lost their lives in different garment factory fires.

Selim Newaz Bhuiyan, former deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence, too, said lack of regular evacuation drill is the main cause behind increasing casualties in garment factory fires.

According to the rules, every garment factory must have at least two staircases -- one for regular use and the other for emergency exit. Although most of the factories have emergency exit, the way is narrowed by piles of materials and goods. It is not easy for so many workers to come down the stairs when a fire sparks, he said.

Selim said many of the alternative staircases are not useable because of their poor condition.

The factories also lack public address system that requires a control room from where the workers on each floor can be directed how to leave the place in such situation. Usually, workers get panicked and run helter-skelter after hearing the fire alarm.

Fire service officials said a large number of garment factories do not have emergency lights, which can be turned on without electricity during the crisis. This is why the whole factory falls into total darkness during a fire, they added.

Some factories reportedly had kept their gates closed during fire incidents. On January 6, 2005, during a fire at Shaan Knitting and Processing Ltd in Narayanganj, all the gates of the building were kept locked. The incident claimed 23 lives.

President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Abdus Salam Murshedi said every garment factory has to maintain regular drills to ensure compliance with rules.

In Bangladesh, about 4,500 garment factories are now in operation. Over 70 percent of them are located in and around the capital.

Related News

Share on



 





It is a good coverage.

The reporters could have covered another point. That is attitude of the owners. The BGMEA president was heard telling a BBC reporter that if there is a factory accidents could be expected. Though he tried to get away when the questioner wanted a clarification the attitude was very clear. Our entrepreneurs do not feel for their employees. They think the employees should be grateful to them for the whole life as the investors arranged employment for them. Death in the process is something very normal, whatever the cause or mode is.

: Haq

In UK, office must do a fier alarm test weekly.

: sheikh

Comments

  • Ashad
    Saturday, February 27, 2010 06:30 PM GMT+06:00 (230 weeks ago)

    This repeated fire incidents tarnish Bangladesh image. BGMEA leaders need to learn how to act like a corporate body. Government should make the following arrangements mandatory for every factory as fire control measures:

    Install fire alarm on every floor

    have fire fighting equipment installed and train people how to use them

    Stage fire drill in every month to keep employees alter what to do during fire

    Train some employees to work as fire wardens

    Clear fire exits and keep them signed

    Regular premises check by fire fighting authority

    There are fire resistance materials which contain fire and prevent it to get spread. Management can take fire fighting as a part of promoting health and safety of employees at work place.

  • Nigar Sultana Kana
    Saturday, February 27, 2010 09:40 AM GMT+06:00 (230 weeks ago)

    Most of the time we have seen this awful incident. After any kind of incident we have heard and seen formation of inquiry committee but any inquiry report hadn't bring good result yet. We have seen several types of promises from the authorities concerned, but sorry to say all are vague and lie. No doubt this event has the same result.


 

 


advertisement

 


The Daily Star

© thedailystar.net, 1991-2014. All Rights Reserved