Boiler explosion prompts calls for increased worker safety in Bangladesh

| 7 July 2017

The Accord Agreement must be broadened, global unions and organizations demanded after 13 people were killed in an explosion in a Bangladeshi factory manufacturing clothes for brands including Swedish retailer Lindex.

A boiler explosion that killed 13 and injured over 50 people at the Multilabs Ltd clothing company, making garment products for several European customers, have led to demands for increased security in the Bangladesh textile industry by global union federations and worker’s rights organizations.

The factory was covered by the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety agreement, intended to ensure a safe and sustainable garment industry, and had undergone an inspection by Accord engineers.However, the Accord Agreement does not cover inspection of boilers which are to be checked by the country’s government.

But government inspectors are scarce: according to a news article in the Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star only 6 inspectors are assigned to inspect more than 5,000 boilers annually. Additionaly, many boilers are operated by people without proper training, the newspaper said.

“There is still an enormous amount of work to be done to improve safety in the Bangladeshi garment industry. This latest tragedy underlines the need for the work by the Bangladesh Accord to continue, and union signatories to the Accord will demand that it be expanded to include boiler safety as soon as possible”, global trade federation Industri All says in a statement on its website.

Several workers rights organizations, including the Clean Clothes Campaign, also called for the Accord agreement to be broadened.

“In addition to the issue of boilers, the Accord must address other safety hazards that have caused accidents, injury and death in garment factories, but which are outside the scope of the Accord program. This includes defects in factory generators, gas lines and freight elevators”, the organization said.

Accord is a five-year legally binding agreement created after the Rana Plaza 2013 disaster where more than 1,100 people died when a factory building collapsed in Bangladesh. Several Swedish clothing companies have signed the Accord agreement to ensure safety in their suppliers’ factories in Bangladesh. The agreement has recently been renewed for three years beyond 2018 when the original agreement expires. The new agreement is aiming at enhanced protections for workers’ rights and safety.

Swedwatch has been following the textile industry in Bangladesh for almost a decade and welcomes all initiatives taken to strengthen workers’ rights, safety and capacity-building including work environment and handling of factory equipment such as boilers.

In a statement published on its website, Lindex called the explosion “an extremely tragic accident” and said that they are in close dialoge with Multifabs Ltd.