Efforts to improve building safety standards in Bangladesh's garment industry are to get a new push from a project to strengthen the construction permit approval process and related building inspection mechanisms.

The initiative will see the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, work with the Dhaka city development authority, Rajdhani Unnayan Kotripokkho (RAJUK), to introduce third party inspection for increased safety, streamline existing laws, automate the issue process for construction permits, and introduce digital signatures to reduce paperwork.

The project will also encourage pro-environment green options to save water and energy in new buildings by incorporating green building measures in the RAJUK construction regulation.

"Dhaka is densely populated and situated in an earthquake prone zone. Bringing down risk levels in buildings is crucial," says RAJUK chairman Md Nurul Huda.

ICF country manager Kyle F Kelhofer added: "Once factories and buildings are given clearance using a thorough, fast and reliable system, investment confidence in Bangladesh will get a boost. 

"This will also help address concerns about unsafe infrastructure in the ready-made garment sector."

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in April last year served as a wake up call for the industry to improve safety conditions in garment factories. 

Various groups have been working towards this goal, including members of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Earlier this week, first findings from inspections at ten garment factories used by these signatories highlighted widespread fire, electrical safety and potential structural problems.

Issues also included disparities between the construction drawings and the resulting buildings.

The IFC and International Labour Organization (ILO) are also working together on a labour standards programme called Better Work, which focuses on improved buildings for worker security.

Last month, Bangladesh hosted its first ever International Trade Expo for Building and Fire Safety to take dialogue further and enable factory owners and management to view - and purchase - cutting-edge fire fighting, electrical and structural safety equipment.