The US-based group working to improve safety conditions for garment workers in Bangladesh says it has inspected nearly one-third (31%) of the 700 factories used by its members - and is on track to have the process finished by July.

To date, 222 factories have now been inspected for fire, structural and electrical safety, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety said yesterday (3 February) in a report on its progress over the last six months.

But it acknowledges there is still "a great deal of work in front of us" to complete the inspections on time.

The Alliance, formed in July 2013 in response to the Tazreen Fashion fire and collapse of the Rana Plaza building, which together claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people, is supported by North American retailers and brands including Gap, JC Penney, Kohl's, Target, VF Corp and Wal-Mart.

The group also said it is preparing to release of a list of factories that have not met its fire and building safety standard and need be re-inspected, as well as all factories for which inspections have yet to take place.

Among other initiatives detailed in the progress report are efforts to assess the existing safety education in supplier factories, including the completion of a Worker Baseline Survey as well as off-site interviews with over 3,200 workers in 28 factories.

Fire safety training has already been carried out in 218 Alliance factories, with the rest also due to be completed by July.

And a Health & Safety Academy in Bangladesh is being planned in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Communities this autumn.

Another key facet of the Alliance's work is to provide workers with a confidential channel through which to report concerns.

Working with Clear Voice, Phulki and Good World Solutions, a worker helpline is being piloted in 50 select factories in greater Dhaka from next month, with the goal of rolling out helplines to 100 factories by March next year, and all Alliance factories by 2017.

But the Alliance says an industry-wide hotline, as proposed by the National Tripartite Plan of Action (NTPA), the agreement between the Bangladesh government and employers' and workers' organisations, is not yet a viable option.

It also emerged that to date, the companies in the Alliance have committed nearly US$150m in funding and low interest loans to help improve factory safety for garment workers in Bangladesh.

Of this, nearly $50m sits in the Worker Safety Fund to provide training and education, with 10% set aside annually to support temporarily displaced workers in the event a factory is closed for remediation. And $100m is available in low-cost capital to help factories carry out improvements.