The government has closed down three buildings housing as many factories, concluding its 23-month long inspection.In addition, 16 factories in seven buildings have been “partially closed” due to structural, fire and electrical safety concerns. The inspection covered a total of 1,475 factories, according to a report.The report, released at a press briefing on Monday ahead of the upcoming ‘sustainable compact’ review meeting in Dhaka in December, found 80 percent of the buildings “safe for operations”.The major garments buyer, the European Union, rolled out an action plan termed ‘sustainable compact’ to ensure factory safety and labour rights in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse, the worst-ever factory disaster in the country, in April 2013.The disaster, which claimed the lives of more than 1,100 people, evoked worldwide concerns over Bangladesh’s factory safety and workers’ rights, pulling the multibillion dollar export item, garments, into focus.Over 180 clothing brands and retailers, including the world’s biggest fashion chains Inditex and H&M, set an ‘Accord’ and inspected 1356 factories, closing down 26 of them.Such North American firms as Wal-Mart and Gap set up a separate ‘Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety’, and also inspected 829 factories. They shut down eight of them.The closures have ‘affected’ about 17,000 workers in an industry that employs nearly four million people, most of them women.
Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments (DIFE), said at the press briefing that in light of the government’s latest report, “virtually all factories have been inspected, helping avoid potential loss of life”.He said factories that were in the ‘amber’, ‘red-amber’ or ‘black’ categories had been given a period of three months beginning this November for submission of their “corrective action plans”.“We found more than 15 percent buildings in the ‘amber’ category, meaning they contain risks that can be addressed. We gave them three months to submit their corrective plans,” Ahmed said.The other categories also have faults that can be redressed.