The first meeting of the committee set up to formulate an action plan on building and fire safety in Bangladesh ready-made garment factories took place yesterday (6 June).

The National Tripartite Committee was set up in March following a number of fatal fires in the garment industry, but before the collapse in April of the Rana Plaza factory building, where more than 1,100 workers lost their lives.

It brings together representatives from government, workers' and employers' organisations, with the International Labour Organization (ILO) playing an advisory role. It is tasked with implementing the 'National Tripartite Plan of Action on Building and Fire Safety in the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh (NAP)'.

The aim of the Action Plan is to take comprehensive action to prevent any further loss of life, limb and property through workplace fires and related incidents.

To do this, it aims to identify activities in three categories - legislative and policy, administrative, and practical.

The practical activities under consideration include assessing the structural integrity of all active ready-made garment (RMG) factories, developing and distributing educational tools on rights and occupational safety and health to workers and middle managers, and redeploying and rehabilitating workers affected by the recent accidents.

On the issue of factory safety assessments, it was agreed that a technical sub-committee will be set up to focus on the structural integrity of buildings and fire safety, including practical details of how inspections will be carried out, what they will include, and co-ordination with other assessments such as those planned by European and US buyers and brands.

The Committee agreed to hear a report at its next meeting on the medical, vocational and economic rehabilitation of victims of the recent garment factory disasters.

A team of international ILO specialists will support the committee in developing its work.

Others attending the meeting included representatives of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters' Association, the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters' Association, Bangladesh Employers Federation, Bangladesh Power Development Board, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, the Public Works Department and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments.