International fashion retailer C&A has started an in-depth fire safety audit at all of its suppliers in Bangladesh, after 112 workers lost their lives in a fire last year at the Tazreen Fashion factory where some of its clothes were made.

The retailer is also making funds of US$1m available to support victims of the fire at Tazreen Fashion - and says it expects the total cost of its support and fire safety measures to come to at least EUR5m (US$6.6m).

The fire safety audit at all of its listed factories owned by locally based supply partners will include an assessment of the electrical systems, building layout and building construction, and will also involve fire safety training.

"If any factory is unwilling or unable to carry out necessary improvements C&A production will be located elsewhere until such time that such factories can comply in full with the recommendations made following the audit," the retailer said.

It expects the first audits to have been completed by the middle of March.

C&A also says it intends to "re-examine a possible accession" to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement (BFBSA) proposed by labour rights groups and trade unions.

But it believes "the lack of willingness among other companies to agree to a respective memorandum of understanding, which would render practical implementation difficult." So far, just PVH Corp and Tchibo have agreed to the treaty.

"Few brands cannot effect the necessary change in regard to fire safety which is required in Bangladesh," said Phil Chamberlain, head of sustainable business development at C&A Europe.

"To ensure safe and healthy working conditions in the future it is essential that initiatives are developed which involve multiple stakeholders, and will lead to fundamental change on the ground."

The details emerged after the retailer yesterday (26 February) said it was teaming up with non-governmental organisation (NGO) Caritas Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to fund medical costs and loss of earnings for 50 injured employees of Tazreen Fashion until they can return to work.

Financial support will also be provided to children who lost a parent at the fire and families who lost a relative in the fire.

The children will receive US$50 (BDT4000) per month until they are 18 years old; the surviving parent or legal guardian of each child will receive US$15 (BDT1200) per month towards their education, medical expenses and other costs. And US$35 (BDT2800) per month will be paid into a savings account for each child until they reach the age of 18.

A statement from C&A added that for each of the families who lost a relative in the fire, the C&A Foundation has donated US$1,200 per family, which builds on earlier donations from other parts of the industry and organisations from Bangladesh.

"The tragedy of 24 November has shown that despite C&A's long tradition of safeguarding work safety in Bangladeshi production plants, additional audits on fire safety are necessary," Chamberlain noted.