Garment workers in Bangladesh have reported cracks in factory buildings following the Nepal earthquake

Garment workers in Bangladesh have reported cracks in factory buildings following the Nepal earthquake

Fresh inspections are being carried out on a number of ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh following the powerful earthquake that shook neighbouring Nepal on Saturday (25 April).

The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety says it is carrying out checks to ensure the structural safety of factories used by its members after receiving several calls to its Amader Kotha (‘Our Voice’) helpline from workers concerned about cracks that had appeared in factory buildings.

And the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh now says it, too, is taking steps to determine if buildings that have already been inspected and which are producing for Accord signatory companies have been structurally affected by the earthquake.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal near its capital city Kathmandu, with tremors reaching across the region to India and Bangladesh. While Bangladesh is some 700-750km from the epicentre, several buildings have been damaged in the capital Dhaka, and elsewhere in the country.

"We moved quickly to ensure that the owners of these factories evacuated workers immediately," the Alliance said. "We are also taking a number of additional measures to work with each factory owner, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord) and the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that all workers are safe.

"While we have not yet seen immediate damage at our ready-made-garment factories in Bangladesh, this does not mean those buildings are structurally sound following this earthquake and its aftershocks.

"Fresh inspections must now be executed to ensure the structural safety of factories, and we have assembled a team of structural engineers, led by our chief safety officer, to visit each building where there is a concern within the next 48 hours."

The Accord, meanwhile, has asked factories to get in touch with any concerns about the impact the earthquake has had on their buildings.

In particular, it is urging those factories which required a Detailed Engineering Assessment (DEA) from the Accord initial structural inspection to have an immediate impact inspection carried out to determine if the earthquake has caused any structural damage to the building where the factory is housed.

The earthquake and its aftershocks show how difficult it can be to ensure the structural safety of buildings in an earthquake zone.

There is also concern to ensure that all of the work to date to make RMG factories safe has not been impacted by the earthquake.