The Financial Express

Safety measures for non-RMG industries

| Updated: January 17, 2022 21:19:06

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Safety measures, be it for apparel units or other industrial and commercial entities, should get equal attention from all the relevant parties. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The apparel industry appears to be more privileged for understandable reasons. Global focus on this particular sector following several major accidents during the last decade has brought high-profile local and international platforms together to ensure adequate safety measures for the RMG workers.

The life of people working in non-RMG sectors is as valuable as that of workers employed in apparel units. The country saw a good number of fire incidents and other accidents in non-RMG industries and commercial establishments in recent years that had claimed many lives. But unlike the RMG accidents, those could not make waves, both nationally and internationally. The families of accident victims did not receive sufficient compensation.

The help of all sorts, however, cannot compensate for the loss the families of the accident victims usually suffer. The goal should be to avoid accidents in all possible ways. Adequate safety measures in all establishments need to be in place to help reduce the number of accidents and resultant casualties. The Accord and the Alliance -- two international platforms -- International Labour organization, the government and apparel industry trade body have worked in unison in recent years to ensure RMG workers' safety.

The prevention of accidents beforehand is necessary. This not only would save the lives of workers and relevant others but also protect the industrial units from potential damage. But the problems lie with ensuring protective measures, in terms of the safety of enterprises and people who work there. With the economy growing at a fast pace, the number of industrial enterprises of various sorts has increased substantially in recent years. But enough initiatives concerning industrial safety measures have not been there. The lack of capacity of the relevant agencies, including the department of explosives, is largely responsible for slow progress in this respect. The Department of Environment (DoE), in particular, has been suffering from a serious shortage of workforce and logistics.

The Investment Development Authority (BIDA) reportedly coordinates the evaluation of the state of fire, electrical and environmental compliances in non-RMG enterprises, primarily in Dhaka, Chittagong, Gazipur and Narayanganj. It was supposed to arrange an inspection of 5000 factories in these four industrial clusters in the last quarter of 2021. But the pace of inspection has been very slow. Only 17 per cent of the targeted factories have been inspected until January 10 last.

Fire incidents in non-RMG industrial units have claimed a notable number of lives of workers and caused extensive damage to establishments in the recent past. Both the government and the leading trade bodies need to make joint efforts to stop the recurrence of such accidents. Mere wishes or words, however, will not do that. Strengthening the capacity of the relevant agencies and engaging them appropriately in the task of ensuring safety measures for the non-RMG industries can only help. Hopefully, these issues will be looked into by the relevant agencies with due seriousness.

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