A fire occurred in the early morning hours of February 2, 2016 in the Matrix Sweater Ltd. factory in Gazipur, which sources garments for members of both the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (Alliance) and the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord).
While there were no casualties and only minor injuries in the fire, this incident underscores the importance of our ongoing work to remediate factories to meet international safety standards, and to push factories that are moving slowly to accelerate their remediation progress.
The Alliance conducted the first inspection of the Matrix Sweater factory in 2014 and recommended several essential safety improvements. In June 2015, a remediation verification visit indicated that Matrix had completed 25 percent of its required repairs, with an additional 62 percent of repairs in progress. Yet to be completed was the installation of fire doors, automatic sprinklers and fire detection systems, which allowed the fire to spread. The Alliance is currently conducting a follow-up inspection to gauge additional progress.
As we have seen from the dramatic decline in serious fire incidents since the launch of international safety initiatives including the Alliance, a reduction in fire risk, injury and death has resulted from our efforts—yet there remain hazards still to be addressed under the remediation program. These hazards are further complicated by infrastructure issues in Bangladesh, such as a lack of access to water supply and overcrowding of buildings, which complicate efforts to extinguish fires when they occur—further underscoring the need for our work
The mission of the Alliance is to ensure that factories from which our Members source meet strict inspection standards and provide a safe working environment free of structural, electrical and fire-related hazards. All of these factories have been inspected, their 1.1 million workers provided with Alliance fire safety training, and all are now undergoing remediation to ensure they meet the highest standards of safety—progress that is saving lives. The Alliance and its 27 member companies have formally severed ties with 26 factories that have failed to comply with these standards.
While much progress is being made in Bangladesh ready-made garment factories, this fire highlights the need for continued, collaborative efforts to ensure that all factories are thoroughly remediated, with the greatest possible emphasis on empowering workers with the safety training they need to respond in an emergency.