International buyers yesterday recommended the garment makers of Bangladesh immediately upgrade fire safety system at the factories to avert fire deaths.
They also suggested Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) strengthen its fire safety cell and train the owners first and then the mid-level officials and workers.
The owners called on the representatives of buyers and globally renowned clothing brands at BGMEA building in the capital to clarify their position in the aftermath of Tazreen Fashions blaze.
The buyers also suggested keeping open all the collapsible gates at the factories for convenient exit of workers during any fire incident and making fire licences mandatory before construction of buildings.
When an owner put the blame on cheap price competition that fixes prices of a pair of jeans only at five euro, Roger Hubert, vice-president of Li & Fung Bangladesh, said, “You know how negotiation is going on. You have to learn how to say no.
“There are a lot of good factories in your country. India, China, Pakistan and Vietnam are not your competitors. It is your local colleagues; you have competitors in your own house.”
On the Tazreen incident, which left 111 dead and many others injured, he said, “We should do something immediately for the victim families…. We have put money in the bank accounts to disburse money to the victim families.”
Hubert added the rehabilitation of victims should be unbureaucratic.
He also stressed the need for a complete revision of building code and government review of construction regulations.
Jenefa Jabbar, representative of JCpenny, recommended reviewing fire licence of almost every factory, as many factories have a shaky fire safety system.
“When a factory catches fire, workers panic and get hurt in stampede,” she said, emphasising regular fire drills.
Payal Jain, representative of H&M, said there is a clear gap in electrical assessment also in many good factories.
She said the majority of RMG fire originates from electrical insulation and not only the owners are responsible for such incidents, but also the monitoring authorities. Electrical earthing is also another problem.
She urged all the factories to assess power supply system every month.
Zia Ahad, director of PVH for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, said owners should seek workers' opinions about the fire safety issue.
Regarding the fire safety cell of BGMEA, a buyer said the trade body conducted training in only 1,087 out of more than 5,000 member factories since the formation of the cell in 1997.
A representative of Bestseller said the majority of trainings are given to the mid-level management, but not to the workers. “We should make a very strong tie between the mid-level management and workers for making the training effective.”
Jubair Aslam, a buyer, asked whether BGMEA will penalise owners for violating fire safety regulations.
BGMEA President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin said they would consider all these recommendations so that the proposed taskforce can take action to resolve the problems.
“We will form the taskforce next week and we will launch a crush programme from next Saturday for improving the fire safety measures in every garment factory. If any factory fails to improve the safety measure in a given period, we will close it down,” he said.
BGMEA Director Atiqul Islam said they had already made eight zones to train electricians, supervisors, mechanics and mid-level officials from the next week.