The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh says a fire at one of its member factories last week highlights the need factories to complete all corrective actions from inspections.

The cause of the fire at Pretty Sweaters Ltd, which started on the seventh floor of the eight-storey factory building last Tuesday (23 February), has not yet been determined, although an investigation is underway. The fire broke out at around 4:30 am, but was contained to a portion of the seventh floor and was brought under control via the sprinkler system and efforts by employees to extinguish the blaze. 

Although the building was occupied at the time of the fire, including more than 100 people on the seventh floor, there were no injuries or fatalities. There was no significant structural or electrical damage and production resumed in the factory shortly after the fire, except for the seventh floor. 

The Accord said it conducted initial inspections for fire, electrical and structural safety at Pretty Sweaters in April last year. It also conducted a follow-up inspection to monitor and verify remediation in September.

According to the Accord, the Pretty Sweaters building is equipped with an automatic fire alarm system, fire doors, and an automatic sprinkler system. 

But although the sprinkler system existed in the factory at the time of the Accord's initial inspection, the group required design drawings to ensure a proper system was installed. Those drawings were recently submitted to the Accord and had not yet been reviewed.

"The sprinkler system helped to control the fire but it was not properly designed and therefore the fire, although contained, was larger than would have been expected with a properly designed sprinkler system," the Accord explained. 

"The fire at Pretty Sweaters highlights the life and property saving importance and value of sprinkler and automated fire alarm systems. It also highlights the need to correctly complete all required corrective actions from inspections."

The group also added that employees and workers should not be fighting fires. "Fires should only be fought by professional firefighters with proper fire-fighting apparatus," it stressed. The Accord will continue to monitor the situation at the factory.  

The fire comes less than a month after a blaze broke out at a Bangladesh garment factory supplying fashion retailers H&M and JC Penney that was supposedly "on track" with remedial action. Labour rights groups said they were "disturbed" by the news, while one industry trade union said it highlights the race against time to make Bangladesh's garment factories safe. 

Bangladesh factory fire renews fears for worker safety

Bangladesh fire highlights race to make factories safe