In general, there is a need of improving fire and building safety in Bangladesh – a country where poor electrical installations and bad maintenance is common. As a consequence, the textile industry in Bangladesh is today experiencing a substantial transformation when it comes to fire safety and is now converting into Western safety standards. This is a huge and complex work, but extremely important. It requires specialist knowledge, availability of international safety equipment and the necessary technical know-how. It is of utmost importance that all measures taken are according to the quality standards agreed in the industry.
Our signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was a complement to the work we started several years ago, and a great way forward as we want to involve a wide range of actors pushing for change in the entire textile industry in Bangladesh, not only the factories producing for H&M group. With this commitment, we are able – together with other companies, global trade unions, employers’ organizations and the Bangladeshi government – to actively influence and contribute to improved workplace safety in the textile industry. Across this grouping, we are working jointly to improve the situation of around 1,600 factories in Bangladesh of which around 250 produce for H&M group. We have a staff of almost 600 in Bangladesh, who works to support suppliers, including improving production facilities to safer and higher international standards. All factories we work with are approved for operation by the Accord.
As part of the transformation to updated international standards, all of the supplier factories that we work with in Bangladesh underwent additional safety inspections by the Accord during 2014–2015. The remediation process was initially delayed, partly due to import delays of upgraded safety equipment as well as a shortage of technical expertise needed to conduct detailed engineering assessments, planning and submissions of drawings, and installation of technical equipment. However, now the remediation is showing progress. To further speed up the remediation we are working closely with IndustriALL to use our combined leverage where needed. We are also in close contact with the suppliers to support them and follow up on the work that remains to be done.
Below is data on findings included in the Accord inspection.
MANDATORY H&M GROUP REQUIREMENTS AT ALL FACTORIES PRODUCING FOR H&M GROUP
- Two emergency exits on each floor.
- Fire alarm installed on a separate power line, connected to its own generator.
- Emergency light connected to a battery in case of power failure.
- Fire extinguishers clearly marked and tested.
- Easy to understand evacuation plans posted on the walls.
- Regular fire evacuation drills for all employees and all shifts as well as documented minutes of these.
- Production is not allowed in buildings shared by other companies or businesses. This requirement was introduced in 2009 and suppliers in shared buildings were gradually phased out.
ADDITIONAL ACCORD REQUIREMENTS
- Fire door:
New upgraded fire doors are installed at every exit at factories enabling a safe evacuation. They are self-closing and have a fire-resitant function preventing the fire ore smoke from spreading within a building. The doors are certified according to international standards and must be installed by a certified engineer. Stairwells connected to a fire door must be a sealed compartent so that no smoke or fire can spread.
- Sprinkler system:
All high-rise buildings must be provided with automatic fire sprinkler systems throughuot the buildings spraying water into the room in case of a fire incident. Sprinkler systems are not available in Bangladesh, but imported from abroad and must be installed by a certified engineer.
- Removal of sliding, collapsible and rolling shutter doors:
These doors open either by sliding, folding back or rolling upwards and downward. They are now removed and will be verified by the Accord. Where required, they are replaced by new, outward opening doors equipped with a push-bar technique. This will enable a faster and safer evacuation in case of an emergency.
- Removal of locking feature:
All factories producing for the H&M group must have clear evacuation routes. This is why any locks at all factory entrances must be easily opened from the inside with one manual motion, for example a push bar complying with international standards.