The coalition of 22 North American brands and retailers working to improve factory safety in Bangladesh says it wants to accelerate progress towards a common set of fire and building standards.

The Alliance will also follow the Bangladesh National Building Code in its apparel factory inspections, in a move that supports the separate, government-backed National Tripartite Plan of Action.

The draft standards were presented at a meeting organised earlier this month by the International Labour Organization (ILO), and were shared with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (which represents a number of European brands and retailers), the BGMEA, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), and the Bangladeshi Ministry of Labour and Employment. 

"Our goal is to accelerate the identification of a common, shared set of standards that will ultimately result in making these factories safer," Ellen O'Kane Tauscher, chairperson of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, told reporters after a meeting with leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in Dhaka yesterday (16 September).

The Alliance has also worked to develop a safety training programme for factory managers and employees - and is working to identify third-parties in Bangladesh to implement it.

The founding 17 members of the Alliance have also submitted a list of their supplier factories in Bangladesh to the Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC), a New York-based non-profit organisation that has developed a software tool to share compliance information on factories around the world.

The information will also be passed on to the government of Bangladesh. But Tauscher said the Alliance is still waiting for the Accord to submit its inspection checklist.

The Alliance chairperson said 500 ready-made garment factories are due to be inspected by July 2014, but did not specify when the inspections would start.

Executives from Walmart, Gap and Target, along with Jeff Krilla, executive director of Alliance and James Moriarty, former US ambassador to Bangladesh, have been visiting Bangladesh this week to discuss progress on the safety programme.