Factory monitoring and certification group Social Accountability International (SAI) has launched a review of its auditing system after giving the Ali Enterprises factory in Pakistan a clean bill of health just one month before a fire killed 259 workers.

New York-based SAI and its related body Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) have launched a broad country-wide factory safety investigation, and have temporarily suspended all new accreditation applications in Pakistan.

Italian auditor Registro Italiano Navale Group (RINA) - which awarded Ali Enterprises an SA8000 certification for decent working conditions - has also suspended all new activities in Pakistan.

And no new SA8000 certificates, developed and promoted by SAI, will be issued until SAAS concludes its analysis and makes any necessary changes to its procedures.

SA8000 certification is supposed to guarantee that production takes place under decent working conditions. The standard includes respect for human and labour rights, a prohibition of child labour, and protection of health and safety in the workplace.

However, locked fire exits, barred windows and blocked stairways contributed to the high death toll at Ali Enterprises, where fire broke out on 11 September. The factory produced garments for German discount retailer KIK. 

Certification bodies undertaking SA8000 activity in Pakistan are also being asked to conduct unannounced fire safety inspections at all existing clients - and SAAS says it will also carry out unannounced fire safety inspections at locations in Pakistan.

In addition to these activities, a review of the audit system has begun.

Separately, unions and labour rights groups in Pakistan also want the authorities there to inspect garment export factories in the country to ensure they comply with health and safety regulations.