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The safety activities of 100 Accord-monitored ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh have been handed over to the government’s Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE).

The handover of 80 factories last month was the second to have taken place, and takes the total number of factories transferred from the Accord to 100. The latest factories on the list have completed their remediation work on fire, infrastructure and electrical safety risks found during initial inspections conducted by the Accord.

The handover letter was signed by Md Mahfuzur Rahman Bhuiyan, DIFE deputy inspector general, and Rob Wayss, executive director of the Stichting Bangladesh Accord Foundation.

“20 of these factories had been listed by at least one brand signatory to the May 2013 Accord, but were not listed by any signatory brands to the 2018 Transition Accord,” Wayss told just-style. The other 80, he said, have been listed by at least one signatory brand to the 2018 Transition Accord.

He added: “All of the 100 above-described factories have new findings which were identified by the Accord engineers in follow-up inspections subsequent to the initial inspections for fire, electric, and structural safety. The RCC-DIFE [Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) unit] will perform the follow-up inspections to verify the status and completion of remediation of any such unremediated new findings.

“The Accord, as part of our transition work with the RCC-DIFE, National Initiative, and Accord signatories, will support and coordinate with the RCC-DIFE in this work.”

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The transfer to the DIFE and its Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) unit included the files and inspections and remediation-related historical documents for all factories.

This covers the status of remediation; initial fire, electrical, structural inspection reports; a record of all past follow-up inspections conducted by the Accord at the factory; the latest Accord follow-up inspection report; the latest updated Corrective Action Plan; a copy of the recognition letter from the Accord to the factory on completion of the initial process; a list of any new finding in progress and timelines for remediation; a list of any findings from safety committee “walk-throughs” and/or safety & health complaints that require engineer follow-up, remediation/correction, and engineer verification; escalation status; and any financial support received through the Accord Remediation Fund.

Since it was set up in 2013, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh – and its replacement, the Transition Accord – have inspected more than 1,600 RMG factories in Bangladesh on behalf of around 200 global brands and retailers.

The original five-year pact expired in May 2018, but was extended to complete remaining safety fixes while the Bangladesh government builds up the RCC as the national regulatory body to oversee workplace safety and remediation.

However, international stakeholders fear the RCC is not yet prepared to take on the responsibilities of the Accord’s inspection programme, despite the government’s claims to the contrary.

Meanwhile, the future of the Transition Accord hangs in the balance with a court hearing due to decide its fate later this month.

“The Accord is committed to the responsible transition of safety work with Accord covered factories to the RCC-DIFE,” Wayss said, adding: “The 100 factories described above are part of this transition.  

“The Accord has been and remains engaged with the RCC-DIFE and National Initiative partners in the transition process, which includes support for the RCC-DIFE as it relates to technical, operational, and systems capacity for safety in the RMG factories.  

“Such work with and support for the National Initiative and RCC-DIFE has been a central part of the Accord’s work since the start of our operations in late 2013 / early 2014.”