Industrial safety measures in non-RMG enterprises need to be similar to those in the RMG sector, in order to reduce accidents and casualties, said the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
"Rigorous industrial safety measures are of critical importance now to reduce the accidents and casualties and measures would be similar to those that had been done in the RMG sector after the Rana Plaza tragedy," said Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director at the CPD.
Dr Moazzem was presenting a paper on industrial safety of non-RMG enterprises and workers at a media briefing - 'Fire incidents in workplaces and workers safety: where are corrective actions?' - jointly organised by CPD and Christian Aid in Bangladesh on Thursday to assess a government initiative on industrial safety.
Undertaking remedial measures in non-RMG factories is a complex issue, since most non-RMG sectors operate within the domestic supply chain unlike the RMG sector operated in the global value chain, Dr Moazzem highlighted.
The CPD research director also said non-RMG enterprises and establishments had been rising in the country because of growing economic activities targeting both local and export markets.
These rising sectors include food processing, plastic products, textiles, processed leather, basic metal products and non-metallic mineral products, Dr Moazzem said, adding that most of the sectors or establishments that confronted accidents and casualties were mainly in housing, hospitals and market places, commercial and factories.
The CPD said that an initiative for industrial safety measures under the overall coordination of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) was announced on July 16, 2021 following a rapid rise of industrial accidents in recent years.
However, the progress under the BIDA-led initiative is not satisfactory, it said.
The main objectives of the BIDA initiative are to review the state of fire, electrical and environmental compliances of non-RMG enterprises and thereby to put forward suggestions on necessary corrective actions.
A total of 5,000 factories were to be inspected by 108 teams during October-December 2021. A total of 1,900 factories in four main clusters (Dhaka, Chattogram, Gazipur, and Narayanganj) were identified for inspection first.
Only 875 factories were inspected as of 10 January 2022 - only 17.5 per cent of total targeted factories.
The progress of inspection is not satisfactory, though the inspection was supposed to be completed by December 2021.
Speaking on the occasion, CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun underscored the importance of civil society in ensuring safety for workers and in the workplace.
She noted that addressing gaps in ensuring labour rights and workers safety was very important given the upcoming milestones of Bangladesh's development, like the LDC graduation in 2026.
Nuzhat Jabin, programme manager, Economic Justice of Christian Aid in Bangladesh, also spoke on the occasion.
According to the CPD keynote paper, fire related accidents and deaths and injuries have been rising mainly in four clusters - Dhaka, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chattogram.
In service related activities, it further said, the highest level of risks is observed in shopping malls or markets (42.3 per cent), educational institutions (22 per cent) and health care services (19.2 per cent).
The BIDA-led process confronted a number of operational challenges: difficulty in coordination between different offices responsible for factory; problem of managing time by the officials of the DC offices in different districts in participating inspection; the officials of DoE and PWD have other departmental engagements and could not maintain the time schedule for inspection; and excessive work pressure on the officials of the department of explosive and office of chief boiler owing to shortage of human resources - in some areas, one official is a member of 8-10 inspection teams.
Database management is likely to be a major challenge particularly to deliver overall and factory-specific challenges and recommendations, observed the keynote paper.