Safety inspections on more than 1,500 garment factories supplying a group of mainly European retailers are set to begin this week.

The move follows a period of pilot factory inspections already carried out on behalf of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh - which Brad Loewen, the top safety official overseeing the effort, told just-style had uncovered a number of issues including unsafe fire exit routes.

Indeed Loewen, chief safety inspector for the Accord, said initial inspections suggest poor building construction and inadequate fire safety infrastructure are still putting Bangladesh garment factory workers at risk. 

The group has committed to inspect the 1,500 factories by September this year for fire, electrical, and building safety. Results of the inspections and recommendations on necessary remediation will be published on the Accord website.

The Accord's extensive inspection programme "will help eradicate dangerous workplaces for some of the world's most vulnerable workers," says Alan Roberts, executive director of international operations.

More than 140 buyers, including Benetton, C&A, M&S, H&M and Inditex, have so far signed the legally-binding Accord, which was set up following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex last April with the loss of more than 1,100 lives.

But groups working to tackle safety in the sector - including the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the government-backed National Tripartite Committee (NTC) - have been criticised for their slow progress in hiring inspectors and starting the inspection process.

The standards cover general building requirements, fire protection construction, fire protection systems, building materials, structural design, construction practices and safety, alterations/change of use, existing buildings, and human element programmes (which include evacuation plans, storage practices, and fire protection equipment.)

Click here to read the full interview with Brad Loewen.