Blog: Structural concerns must extend beyond Bangladesh

Petah Marian | 9 July 2013

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has taken a great step forward after the 70 brands and retailers involved agreed to inspect all of their supplier factories over the next nine months.

While the collapse in April of the Rana Plaza factory complex prompted the move, with over 1,100 people dying in the tragedy, Bangladesh is not the only country with structurally unsound factories.

Two workers died at a Cambodian factory making footwear for Japanese sportswear company Asics in the middle of May when a walkway collapsed. The same month, a further 23 people were injured in the country when a shelter collapsed at Top World Garment, which was making clothing for H&M without its knowledge.

And just last Thursday, an apparel factory at Bhiwandi, near Mumbai in India collapsed, with the death toll currently standing at seven workers. According to global union IndustriAll, the building was illegal and unauthorised construction was taking place.

These problems are not unique to the clothing industry; a further three buildings have collapsed in India in recent months. A two-storey building collapsed yesterday (8 July) in Secunderabad, in south India, killing at least 12 people; at least 10 people were killed last month when part of a five-storey building collapsed in Mumbai; and 74 died when a Mumbai apartment building collapsed in April.

With monsoon season well underway in India there are concerns that yet more poorly constructed buildings may collapse.

The important work being done in Bangladesh to shore up building safety must be extended into other apparel manufacturing countries.

Indeed, the International Labour Organization's Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) initiative is advising a structural review is carried out on all buildings in all garment and footwear factories in Cambodia.

Commenting on the Bhiwandi collapse, IndustriAll general secretary Jyrki Raina echoed the thoughts of many industry watchers when he said: "This illustrates that the problem of exploited workers labouring in unsafe buildings is not restricted to Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Accord is one step, but the concept must spread to other countries."


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