The Industrial Safety Forum (ISF), which was organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and held on 12 May aimed to discuss the development of a national industrial safety framework for Bangladesh. 

The country is a key sourcing hub and the second-largest apparel exporting country in the world, currently exporting apparel to 167 countries across the globe. It has around 3,500 readymade garment factories and 1,511 textile manufacturing plants, including dyeing-printing-finishing units. 

Bangladesh is also starting to stress its sustainability credentials, including worker health and safety, a sign of the progress the industry has made since the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster killed 1,134 people. 

Infrastructure and institutional preparedness for industrial safety are still at nascent stages in the country, and building safety, occupational safety and health (OSH) as well as environmental sustainability remain outside the core activities in most industrial sectors, said ILO. 

The ISF explained it aims to inspire and engage the relevant stakeholders to establish a sustainable and transparent industrial safety framework, which will act as a foundation for ensuring workplace safety in all industries across Bangladesh. 

Md. Ehsan-E-Elahi, secretary of labour and employment points out the ministry has formed two tripartite committees to review and amend the labour law to maintain decent workplaces and industrial safety. He said: “For inclusive growth of the country, the government and the public bodies need to work with the employers and the civil society collaboratively.”  

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Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO Bangladesh’s country director added, “ISF provided a platform to discuss, engage and collaborate for improving workplace safety and health in all economic sectors across Bangladesh. We hope the recommendations and commitments shared at the forum will drive the process of developing a national industrial safety framework.” 

Guest of honour, Ardashir Kabir, president of Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) told the forum he believes it will help to create synergy and for everyone to work together for the common cause of raising industrial safety standards. 

The other guest of honour, Ms Shamim Ara, chairperson of National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education (NCCWE) stated: “Safety at workplaces not only keeps the workers secure but it also improves the worker-employer relationships, increases productivity, and takes the country forward.” 

Last week, the government of Bangladesh vowed to help the apparel sector transition into a green future.