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RMG factory owners need Tk 40b to meet fire safety standards

3. Suravee GarmentsThe country’s readymade garment (RMG) factory owners are required to spend at least Tk 40 billion to meet fire safety standards set by various international buyers and their alliances after the deadly Rana Plaza incident, stakeholders say.

Fire Service and Civil Defence officials have swooped on many apparel factories and asked their owners to install various safety equipment including fire door, busbar tracking system, automatic fire sprinkler system, and fire extinguisher, they added.

“Each factory will have to invest afresh at least Tk 10 million to meet the fire safety requirements. Some big factories may even need to spend Tk 30 to 40 million to install the equipment,” said Mohammad Hatem, vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

He termed the expenditure as a ‘sudden burden’ for the apparel factory owners. “It’s not possible for many factories to invest such a big amount of money suddenly. You can’t make the entire Bangladeshi factories global standard at a time.”

“It won’t be wise to pressurise all the factory owners to be fully equipped for fire safety at a time. They should be given enough time to buy the equipment in phases,” Mr Hatem said.

He said those who are putting pressure for fire safety should share the cost so that the burden of factory owners is reduced. “The government should arrange low-cost loans for factories to buy fire safety equipment.”

“The government functionaries are threatening many factory owners to close down the units unless they are equipped in line with safety requirements,” Mr Hatem added.

Vice President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Shahidullah Azim said some 3,600 apparel factories are in operation.

“Starting from Tk 10 million, some factory owners even need to invest Tk 50 million to buy the required fire safety equipment. This is a big burden for them,” he said.

“Both the buyers and the pressure groups should share the cost of remediation as they also have responsibility in this connection,” Mr Azim said. He said most of the factories would not be able to comply with the requirements unless they get soft loans from banks.

He said the government will have to cooperate with the garment factory owners letting them duty-free import of safety equipment so that the cost goes down.

After the deadly Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen Fashions fire, workplace safety and improvement of working conditions have become major concerns locally and globally.

After the incidents, the United States and the European Union have given action plans to the Bangladesh government for implementation in a bid to ensure workplace safety and workers’ rights.

Besides, Alliance, a body of retailers of European buyers and Accord, another platform of North American retailers are also implementing fire and building safety activities in Bangladesh. This has put tremendous pressure on factory owners.

Report: Syful Islam
Source: Financial Express

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