A devastating fire destroyed Tazreen Fashions Limited in November 2012 leaving 112 workers dead and many others injured. This immense loss of life shocked the world and spurred the tripartite constituents of the ILO - government, employers and workers - into developing a National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety for the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh. A second successive fire at Smart Export Garments in January 2013 in which 8 workers died and others were injured underlined the need to take urgent action.
Since its inception, safety and health at the workplace has been a cornerstone of the work of the ILO. As prevention is considered the most efficient and cost-effective way of ensuring safety and health in the workplace, the ILO assisted tripartite partners to develop a Plan of Action which focused on adopting a preventative approach across the sector. The Plan of Action was formally adopted on March 24, 2013. As the partners move towards implementation of the Plan, the ILO will continue to provide advisory services and technical assistance.
The objectives of the Plan of Action are:
- To identify activities that the tripartite partners agree fall within their individual and/or collective responsibility and need to be implemented to ensure an integrated approach to promoting fire safety in Bangladesh, in particular in the ready-made garment sector; and
- To provide entry points for other stakeholders (buyers/brands, international development organizations, donors, etc.) that wish to support implementation of the Plan of Action, as well as to provide a platform for coordination for stakeholders that wish to initiate additional fire safety promotion activities.
In accordance with its objectives, the Plan of Action identifies activities on three levels: legislation and policy, administrative and practical activities, as well as the respective partner(s) responsible for the implementation of the activities, and a timeframe for implementation. The Plan of Action also provides for the establishment of a High-Level Tripartite Committee with a mandate to:
- monitor progress in implementation of the activities in the Plan of Action;
- review and update the Plan of Action as necessary, including for activities to be carried out in 2014 and 2015; and
- develop ways through which other stakeholders can support implementation of - and coordination with - the Plan of Action.
The Plan of Action flows from a Tripartite Statement of Commitment, signed during a tripartite meeting organized jointly by the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) and the ILO on 15 January 2013. In the statement, the partners committed to actively develop, promote and implement collaborative, participatory, and transparent mechanisms to ensure fire safety in Bangladesh. As a first step, they affirmed to work together to develop a National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety, with a view to taking comprehensive action aimed at preventing any further loss of life, limb and property due to work place fires and fire-related accidents and incidents. A tripartite committee, established by the MoLE, subsequently developed a draft, which was formally endorsed by the the signatories of the Tripartite Statement on March 16, 2013. The Minister of Labour and Employment formally adopted the Plan of Action on March 24, 2013.
Promoting fire safety in Bangladesh
Is it an earth quake?
I think there is a storm!
No, the factory is on fire!!
These words are from the opening scenes of a fire safety awareness animation developed by the ILO which was recently premiered during the “Gorbo” (Pride) TV show, an American Idol style talent show for garment sector workers, which has an audience of millions across Bangladesh.
One of the activities in the Plan of Action is to develop and deliver mass worker education tools to promote safety and health in the ready made garments sector. This animation is a first step towards developing such tools and provides tripartite partners and other stakeholders with a simple but effective resource to raise worker awareness of issues. The ILO encourages individual organisations to download and share the animation and use it in awareness raising activities. The English transcript of the spoken Bangla can be found here