Blog: Leonie BarrieFacing up to fire safety challenges

Leonie Barrie | 22 December 2014

Will efforts to improve fire, building and worker safety in Bangladesh's apparel industry translate into more business - and higher prices? While a major discussion point for ready-made garment exporters at the recent Dhaka Apparel Summit, retailers and brands prefer to focus instead on the business benefits of a compliant supply chain.

And as safety improvements at Bangladesh garment factories move from inspections to remediation, stakeholders warn the hard work is just beginning. Access to low-cost finance is one of the main challenges facing firms going forward, but so too is a shift in mindset - with a greater focus on worker training seen as key to creating lasting change.

As work continues to rebuild the industry's reputation in Bangladesh, reports suggest garment factories in Vietnam and Cambodia also need to face up to fire safety challenges.

Blocked fire exits and a lack of proper equipment and training highlight a "persistently high" level of non-compliance with fire safety standards in Vietnam. While safety in Cambodian garment factories needs to be improved through a complete overhaul of building regulations and the inspection regime.

A study into the working conditions of migrants from Myanmar (Burma) in the Thai apparel industry suggests the workers are typically paid less than the legal minimum wage - a practice known as "wage theft". They are also said to be denied the right to collective bargaining and minimum social security.

And apparel manufacturing has defied expectations by being one of the leading industries bringing manufacturing back to the US, a new index suggests - with improved delivery times the top reason for the move.

David Birnbaum, meanwhile, looks at the shifting role of the buying office, pointing out that the range of services required by garment importers and retailers has soared in both number and complexity. The challenge now, he says, is to quantify the level of performance - and commission.

And as we reach the end of another year, we've rounded up the winners and losers in retailing, manufacturing and sourcing. just-style's annual review tracks those for whom 2014 will be memorable in more ways than one: 2014: A year in review

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