A decision by the Bangladesh government to authorise the hiring of 392 new labour and factory inspectors has been described as a "significant step" towards improving worker safety in the country's garment sector.

The move comes as part of a decision to upgrade the chief inspector of factories and establishments office to directorate status - and will see the number of inspectors increase from 183 to 575 positions, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

It is part of a pledge made by the government in July as part of the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity and the EU Sustainability Compact.

The ILO country office for Bangladesh is now preparing detailed plans to develop the capacity of the new directorate, including training the new inspectors during the next three years. 

Eight senior ILO officials from Geneva, Bangkok and New Delhi, and a senior representative from the ILO International Training Centre (ITC) in Turin, Italy, are currently in Dhaka.

They are due to meet the newly appointed inspector general of factories and establishments, along with a team of inspectors to assess the training and capacity building needs of the directorate and develop a three-year partnership plan.

The delegation will also meet with other local stakeholders to discuss the training of employers, mid-level managers, supervisors, trade union leaders and workers on occupational safety and health and workers' rights issues. 

According to ILO country director Srinivas Reddy, the aim is to "train a large number of government officials, factory owners, managers, supervisors and trade union leaders on safety and workers' rights, creating a cascading effect."