In 2013, 1,127 garment factory workers died in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. It was but one in a series of fires, collapses and other calamities that have killed Bangladeshi factory workers in the past several years.
An underlying cause of those disaster is “little to no government oversight or enforcement of the codes and standards they have on the books,” Don Bliss, NFPA’s vice president of field operations, said during a presentation Tuesday morning at the 2015 NFPA Conference & Expo in Chicago.
Bliss, along with Randy Tucker, a fire protection engineer at CCRD Partners, spoke about conditions at Bangladesh’s garment factories and a joint effort that has been launched to improve safety.
In 2014, NFPA signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate with The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety—an alliance of 12 U.S. retailers, who buy from upwards of 600 factories in Bangladesh—to take action to improve fire and life safety for workers. The Alliance has already visited each of those factories, and submitted action plans to the owners with recommended changes, said Tucker, who sits on the Alliance board. The Alliance retailers have entered into a five-year contract with the factories to allay fears that the investment costs of adding fire and life safety features to the factories won’t cause retailers to seek other suppliers.
NFPA officials, including Bliss, and Alliance members have also met with local fire chiefs and factory owners to offer help and assistance.
“NFPA has a global role to play,” Bliss said during the presentation. “We believe we can use our 119 years of experience of taking the U.S. from a developing country in terms of fire safety to where it is today, and share that knowledge our resources throughout the world.”
To see a pdf of today’s presentation, visit nfpa.org/conference.