The group set up its own engineering team and inspected 200 suspect factories in recent weeks, he said. They found violations so worrisome they shut 20 of them, he said.
Some will be moved to other buildings, others will be strengthened and some will be allowed to reopen after heavy equipment is removed from upper floors, he said. It was not clear if those 20 factories overlapped with those inspected by the university.
The garment association also established rules forcing factories to submit structural plans and soil test reports or risk losing their membership in the organization – and their export licenses, he said.
Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddique said the government was conducting its own inspections and expects to close factories as well.
“I think 200 to 300 factories will be vulnerable, and I think we will identify those buildings very quickly,” he said.
In the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster, the country was under extreme pressure from Western brands to improve safety, he said. But he also appealed to those companies to pay higher rates to cover the upgrades.
“To provide security, better wages and compliance is not cheap,” he said.
Swedish retailer H&M, PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein, and Inditex, which owns Zara, are among companies that signed an agreement to help finance safety improvements in Bangladesh factories. Wal-Mart and the Gap have not.
Experts said the recent disasters were a product of the explosive growth of garment manufacturing here from a cottage industry into a behemoth that employs 4 million people. It began in the 1980s with small factories in residential buildings with no special fire exits, the workers sewing and cutting on the lower floors while the owner lived upstairs. When the business grew, the owner moved out and the factory expanded into the whole building.
Some factories later moved into commercial space. The most successful eventually constructed their own buildings, but even that was unregulated until Bangladesh established its first statutory building code in 2006.
Mubasshar Hussain, president of the Institute of Architects, Bangladesh, said 50 percent of the factories likely have problems, but all of them can be addressed within a year with a coordinated campaign to retrofit those buildings.
“We have the manpower, we have the technology, we have the material. All we need is the awareness of the owner,” he said.
But Hussain worried that the burst of activity following the Rana Plaza collapse could dissipate. He pointed to a long-forgotten 2005 garment association report recommending close structural monitoring of factories in the wake of the collapse of the Spectrum sweater factory that killed 64 workers.
Siddique, the textiles minister, said the new disaster was too horrifying to be ignored.<< previous 1 2 3 4 5