The European Union (EU) has joined calls for improved factory safety in the ready-made garments sector in Bangladesh after a fire at Tazreen Fashion killed more than 110 people at the end of last month.

The EU Ambassador to Bangladesh, William Hanna, last week told officials at the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) of renewed concern in Europe about workplace safety in Bangladesh.

"We all know what must be done. Safety standards in factories must be improved," noted Ambassador Hanna. "The EU is already working with the BGMEA to assist. We will continue to do so."

But he warned: "All must play a part - including Government services, producers, workers representatives and buyers - to ensure decent working standards in the RMG sector in Bangladesh."

EU Heads of Mission also issued a joint statement underlining the high importance which the EU attaches to safety and other social compliance issues in factories.

Under the 'Promotion of Labour Standards in the RMG Sector" project, EU support is being given to the Ministry of Labour and Employment and BGMEA and BKMEA in order to provide compliance audits to factories (this includes fires safety) and to train labour inspectors and factory compliance officers.

The EU is also working closely with the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense Directorate, and has provided equipment and training to help improve to the Directorate's fire-fighting capabilities in factories.

Last week the US Ambassador to Bangladesh warned apparel buyers and manufacturers that a return to "business as usual" after the factory fire "could seriously jeopardise the future of Bangladesh's ready-made garment industry."

Dan Mozena called on the industry to ensure that the fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory ushers in "a new era in Bangladesh of improved workplace safety, better working conditions, a stronger voice for labour, and stronger cooperation among owners, government and workers."

If they succeed, then "Brand Bangladesh becomes a preferred brand, a brand associated with safe, productive factories, a brand sought by both buyers and consumers."

But a failure to face up to workplace conditions and labour rights - coupled with the negative headlines already seen by consumers around the world -  "could seriously threaten the market for Bangladeshi ready-made garments in America and elsewhere."