During its first 12 months, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has completed inspections of all 587 garment factories from which its members source, provided basic fire safety training to more than one million workers and managers and begun offering financial compensation—recently extended from two to up to four months—to workers displaced as factories undergo necessary repairs.
The news comes as the Alliance releases its first annual progress report this week, which details both the achievements realized and challenges faced in its efforts to dramatically improve safety in the ready-made garment sector since the Alliance was founded one year ago this month.
Underlying its achievements on inspections and worker training are important behind-the-scenes successes, such as the development of a strict and unified standard for structural, fire and electrical safety throughout all garment factories and successful advocacy before the Bangladeshi government to eliminate prohibitively high tariffs on factory safety equipment.
“Together, the Alliance and our partners are steadily achieving progress that will have a lasting, positive impact on factory workers, the ready-made garment industry and the country’s economy as a whole,” said the Honorable Ellen Tauscher, former U.S. Congresswoman and Alliance Independent Chair. “Much work remains to be done, but we are steadfastly committed to staying the course, working in partnership, ensuring transparency and helping achieve a new, sustainable standard for safe workplaces in Bangladesh.”
The effort to ensure safe workplaces began with the inspection of existing factories. To date, Alliance inspections have resulted in the full or partial closure of ten factories. Structural faults were found in all these cases, raising immediate safety concerns. In the coming year, the Alliance will focus heavily on remediation efforts to bring all factories into compliance with strict safety standards.
In addition to completing rigorous inspections, the Alliance has placed special emphasis on initiatives designed to protect and empower workers. These include the appointment of a Board Labor Committee to advise on all labor-related issues and the initial rollout of a helpline to which workers can anonymously report concerns without fear of reprisal. In partnership with factory owners, the Alliance has paid wages to more than 1,000 workers to date displaced by factory remediation efforts.
The Alliance has also conducted a comprehensive baseline survey and a limited sample follow-up survey among garment workers assessing their knowledge of fire safety before and after Alliance-led trainings. Survey results show that workers who could correctly identify what to do in case of a fire increased from 39 percent to 98 percent, and those who could correctly identify the five most common fire hazards increased from 2 percent to 51 percent following the basic fire safety training.