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Mar 21, 2011

Fire in Bangladesh Garment Factory

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At least 21 workers have been killed in a fire at the Garib & Garib Sweater Factory in Gazipur, Bangladesh. A further 50 workers are suffering from burns or smoke inhalation. According to the company’s website, Garib & Garib Sweater Factory is manufacturing for H&M, Otto, 3Suisses International, Pimkie, TechTextile Russia, Provera and Mark’s Work Wearhouse, and has previously supplied Littlewoods, Lindex, JC Penney and Wal Mart.

The fire, seemingly caused by an electrical short circuit, started on the first floor of the seven story building at 9.30pm, when workers were leaving the factory after their shifts. As the fire spread, workers became trapped on the floors above. According to one survivor, rescue efforts were hampered by the fact that firemen had to cut the window grills to access the workers. In addition, no one on the scene could tell fire fighters how many workers were in the factory at the time the fire began.

According to Patrick Itschert, General Secretary of the Brussels-based International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) “This tragedy, which echoes so many others in Bangladesh’s garment sector, is a brutal reminder of the grossly inadequate safety measures in place in Bangladesh’s garment factories.”

“The Bangladesh garment industry has a horrendous safety history. In April 2005 the Spectrum factory collapsed, killing 64 workers and injuring 84 more. In February 2006 a fire caused by an electrical short circuit at a garment factory in Chittagong killed 61 workers and injured approximately 100 more. Two days later a five-story building in the Tejgaon industrial area collapsed after unauthorized renovations to the upper stories of the building, killing 22 workers and injuring 50 more. The very same day a transformer explosion at a facility housing five garment factories caused workers to rush for the exits, and dozens were crushed in the effort to escape from the narrow stairwells. On 6 March 2006 a fire, triggered by an electrical short circuit at the building housing three garment factories in Gazipur, lead to a stampede when workers attempting to escape were blocked by boxes.”

“These tragedies are eerily similar and all could have been prevented by safe working practices. The Bangladesh government and the BGMEA must take urgent steps to ensure that this tragic event is the last of its kind, must ensure that victims receive adequate medical care and must put in place a compensation scheme for the victims and the families of those who died.”

“In the past the ITGLWF has called on the Government of Bangladesh to conduct an urgent structural review of all multi-storey buildings currently in use as garment production units; to launch an examination of all plant and machinery in garment producing factories; to ensure that all factories have adequate access and exit routes so that workers can swiftly be evacuated and emergency teams and equipment can quickly be brought to the site; and to create an adequate factory and wage inspectorate to ensure regular checks on workplace safety and adherence to labour legislation, including hours of work. Today we reiterate that call. The Bangladesh Government needs to act now” concludes Mr. Itschert.


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