Nearly cent per cent of readymade garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh have now become compliant over the last four years since the collapse of Rana Plaza that killed more than 1,130 workers and maimed thousands, according to stakeholders in the sector.

In a joint inspection conducted recently some 98 per cent of the 3,780 RMG factories have been found fully complaint, and the progress of factory remediation is phenomenal. Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) expect that by next June all around 4,500 RMG factories will be completely remediated.

Before Rana Plaza tragedy RMG factories only focused on elimination of child labour, limiting working hours and giving wages for overtime duties as per international convention and also on achieving technical compliance that includes use of protective wares like fire extinguisher, gloves, boots, helmets for the workers.

However, the deadly Rana Plaza disaster that occurred on April 24, 2013, made the stakeholders to go ahead also for compliance of structural, fire and electrical safety, which was almost zero in their vision earlier. Also there was no proper firefighting equipment except some fire extinguisher, water buckets, sand sacks, etc. But, now modern hydrant system has been set up for automatic water flow in case of any fire incident.

Each factory now follows Central Fire Detection System (CFDS), in which sitting at the control room the fire officer at can trace out the exact point and source of fire using monitor. Under the system in case of fire incident fire doors prevent fire from spreading to other floor for one to one and half hours.

To prevent electrical fire proper electrical cable are being used in the factories. To explore the ongoing compliance in the RMG factories The Daily Observer talked to some garments owners. Mahmud Hasan Khan (Babu) of Rising Fashions Ltd said: “We are now maintaining all the things related to safety compliance like structural, fire and electrical safety, etc. you will find a massive change in regard of compliance.”Meanwhile the government took major steps to build the capacity of the local authorities to monitor the safety standards in the industry as well as to ensure well-being of our workers.

The government has strengthened The Department of Inspection for Factory and Establishment (DIFE) by appointing 247 new inspectors. It has also established Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) with the support of International labour Organisation (ILO), and the Accord (The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety) and Alliance (Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety). Collectively, Alliance members represent the majority of North American imports of ready-made garments from Bangladesh, while Accord is the body of Europen retailers of Bangladesh RMG products.

Mohammed Nasir, Managing Director, Evergreen Sweaters Ltd said: “Rana Plaza disaster most unfortunate part of our history, was a major wakeup call for us. It was a point for us of turnaround and we committed to make workplaces safe.” He said now factories are inspected jointly by the government experts supported by ILO, and buyers led platform Accord and Alliance. In recent years, Bangladesh is proudly taking leadership position in green industrialization in the world.

We have now 67 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified factories certified by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), of which 13 are platinum. “Seven out of world’s top 13 LEED certified factories are located in Bangladesh and 280 more factories are in the pipeline for getting certification and many more are preparing for it,” said Faruque Hassan, Senior Vice President, BGMEA.

But, in regard of inspiring comparative bargaining and trade union in the garment factories, reluctant minds of the garments owners are alleged. But, Faruque Hassan totally refused the allegation and said in the world, only Bangladesh encourages in comparative bargaining and trade union. I would rather say we that one step ahead in this regard.

Meanwhile the labour law was amended in July 2013 and another revision of the law is in progress. The Labour Rules was passed in September 2015. The Labour Law makes it mandatory to have participations committee through election and safety committees in every factory. Besides, a Workers Welfare Fund has been created where the RMG industry alone has contributed around $10 mnin last fiscal year. The Government of Bangladesh has recently formed the Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) for the RMG sector.