The group of 27 North American retailers and brands working to improve safety in Bangladesh has started inspections on more than 400 garment factories used by its members.

Mesbah Rabin, managing director of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, confirmed to just-style yesterday (12 March) that the inspections were underway by seven teams, with fire, electrical and structural safety of the garment units being assessed.

"We've planned to complete the inspection by July this year, and we are expected to release an initial inspection report in April," he added. 

Although the Alliance set out plans to inspect more than 600 factories, Wal-Mart, one of the founders of the group, has already completed inspections at 200 of its supplier factories in Bangladesh.

"If the expert panel accepts the reports on the previously inspected 200 factories, it will not be necessary to re-inspect," Rabin explained.

Separately, the largely European-backed Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh started inspecting nearly 1,600 of its supplier factories on 20 February.

While at least 2,000 other garment factories in Bangladesh that are not covered by the Accord or Alliance are being inspected by 30 teams of experts led by the Bangladesh University and Engineering and Technology (BUET) in an exercise that began in November.

Bangladesh has around 4,000 active garment factories, employing more than 4m people.