Dr. Subrata Das
Manager - Consumer Testing Services (Laboratory)
SGS India Private Limited, Bangalore - India
RMG contributes 76% of total exports in Bangladesh. Major products of apparels include knit and woven shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts, shorts, jackets, sweaters, sports wears and many more casual and fashion items. The sector currently employs approximately 1.5 million workers, mostly females from underprivileged social classes (1).
Clothing, being the largest industrial sector, has been experiencing phenomenal growth for last 10 years as depicted in the Table 1.
This is largely due to the simple level of technology needed by the industry. Moreover, relatively inexpensive and easily available machineries, requirement of smaller premises, abundant supply of cheaper work force, low tariffs on imported machineries and, most significantly, benefits of reserved markets by MFA quota have spurred the growth of the garment industry.
At present the country exports nearly 5 billion US$ per year to around 90 countries in the world which include USA, Canada, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Belgium. In fact, Bangladesh is the 6th largest supplier of apparels in the US market (2).
In order to export readymade garments, it is now almost mandatory for the exporters to disclose the quality parameters towards acceptance of the product as per the intended end use as decided by the Worlds leading brands. Knowledge in regulations pertaining to the area of flammability, care label and fiber products identification act are very important for export oriented garment trade, which is not only to satisfy the requirement of U.S. Federal Trade regulation but also to safeguard the interest of consumers. Performance evaluation of the garments is essential prior to shipment with a view to meet the specific requirement standards of the buyers. Working environment, wherein the garments are to be produced, is equally important to protect human rights and the code of conduct derives the basic objectives of social compliance issues. Thus, Bangladesh has a stiff challenge ahead to meet the demand of world market.
The author during his pioneering work of setting up of an international laboratory i.e. MTL(now known as Bureau Veritas Consumer Product Services) inside the export processing zone in Dhaka, Bangladesh, had extensively glanced through the garment sector and in this paper he has made an attempt to highlight some of the essential international performance standards applicable to the export of RMG and the present quality status of export oriented apparels of Bangladesh. The code of conduct applicable to the workplace with particular reference to the creation of a better working environment in the apparel sector of Bangladesh has also been discussed by the author based on his practical experience in the social accountability.
2. Performance Standard:
In accordance with code of Federal Regulation, Title 16 CFR Part 1610 regulates flammability of general clothing textiles. This standard measures the speed and intensity of flame and ease of ignition. All items of wearing apparel must meet the criteria of Class 1, Normal Flammability. Fabrics classified as Class 2, intermediate flammability, although legal, are not acceptable for sale. Those that are Class 3, rapid and intense burning, can not be legally sold in the United States or imported into the United States from abroad.
Childrens sleepwear is covered under and must meet the requirements of 16 CFR Part 1615/1616 which measures fabric flammability by char length of burn. These standards protect children from serious burn injuries if they come in contact with an open flame, such as a match, lighter, or stove burner.
Typical export oriented items of Bangladesh which have been tested to obtain flammability data are tabulated Table 2