Amid opposition from the leaders of readymade garment (RMG) sector, the western retailers' platform Accord has announced launching fresh boiler safety inspection in its listed 1,600 local factories from next month.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said it cannot accept the boiler safety audits to be integrated into the Accord's inspection and remedial programmes at this late stage of the timeline when so many factories have nearly completed their remediation efforts based on Accord's prescription.
"The Accord will commence conducting initial boiler safety inspections at Accord-covered factories in September 2019," according to a latest progress report of the Accord.
The platform took the move based on the findings revealed through one of its pilot boiler safety programme conducted in September to December period of last year.
The pilot program was agreed after multiple catastrophic boiler explosions in the country's RMG factories during the last several years.
As part of the pilot programme, 35 boilers were inspected at 17 Accord-covered factories, which provided information on a representative sample of boilers used in RMG factories in Bangladesh.
Significant boiler safety hazards including non-compliant or missing boiler components/parts and a lack of certification were revealed by the pilot inspection.
Some 19 out of 35 inspected boilers could not undergo all stages of inspection because the boiler equipments at the factories were inadequate or defective, it found.
Following the pilot boiler safety inspection findings, the Accord Steering Committee decided that the Accord-covered factories shall be inspected for boiler safety, the report reads.
Boiler safety findings will be included in the factories' corrective action plans (CAPs), the completion of which is being monitored by the Accord and the responsible company signatories, it added.
When asked, BGMEA president Dr Rubana Huq said they cannot accept such fresh audit and have already informed the Accord about their stance.
She said the boiler inspection is not integrated into the national tripartite plan of action (NTPA) and also the standard has not been set yet.
"It is a time-consuming, complicated process requiring specific technical know-how and can lead to confusion and ambiguity," she noted.
For conducting the audits, production needs to be stopped which can add to further complication, delays, advance planning or scheduling during off-season period, she explained.
"In the next 10 months, it is not possible for Accord to conduct and complete the inspection with its limited resources against these challenges," the BGMEA chief added.
Any outstanding issues can be referred to the proposed RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) which is scheduled to take over next year, she suggested, calling upon the Accord to work together to integrate the boiler safety audits into the RSC's upcoming inspection and remediation programmes.
The BGMEA in a recent workshop alleged that the garment factories have been failing to complete the remediation even after six years of inspection conducted and they made a huge investment in fixing the flaws because Accord is putting fresh requirements at the last moment of checking.
Only 200 out of the 1,600 factories have so far received remediation completion certificate from the Accord.
The Accord, a platform of more than 200 global apparel brands, retailers and rights groups based mostly in Europe, was formed immediately after the Rana Plaza building collapse to improve the workplace safety in the country's apparel industry for five years that ended in May last year.
The government allowed a six-month extension until November 30 last while the platform wants to stay here for some more time.
The Supreme Court in May this year allowed Accord to continue its activities for 281 days after the Accord and BGMEA signed a memorandum of understanding in this regard.
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