The Financial Express

Boiler inspection at RMG units may start middle of next year

| Updated: December 18, 2019 19:42:49

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Picture used for representational purpose - Collected Picture used for representational purpose - Collected

Boiler safety inspection in the country's readymade garment (RMG) factories would start in the middle of next year under the supervision of brands, trade unions and manufacturers, sources said.

Earlier, the western retailers' platform Accord announced to commence initial inspection in its listed 1,600 factories from September last, but could not begin due to the opposition from the sector leaders, they added.

The platform took the move based on the findings revealed through one of its pilot boiler safety programme conducted during a period from September to December last year.

The stakeholders concerned agreed on the pilot programme after multiple catastrophic boiler explosions in the factories in last several years.

As part of the pilot programme, 35 boilers were inspected at 17 Accord-covered factories that revealed significant boiler safety hazards, including non-compliant or missing boiler components/parts and a lack of certification.

Expressing deep sadness over the latest explosion in a garment factory that caused death of a garment worker of a nearby factory and injuries to several workers and a pedestrian, Accord in a statement issued on Friday said this tragic accident underscored the importance of boiler safety inspections and remediation monitoring.

The Accord's current inspection scope is fire, electrical and structural safety in garment factories producing for the Accord signatory companies, it said.

"The Accord signatories acknowledge the importance of incorporating additional prevention measures to the scope of work, such as boiler safety inspections. This work will continue under the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) when the Accord programme transitions to this new organisation governed by brands, trade unions and manufacturers at the end of May 2020."

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) earlier said that any outstanding issues could be referred to the proposed RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which is scheduled to take over next year.

Accord issued the statement after the 'boiler-related' gas explosion and fatality at Natural Sweater Village Ltd (NSVL) on December 10 at Gouripur, Ashulia. Around 8:00 am on the day, there was an explosion in the gas supply apparatus room and fabric/yarn warehouse area of the factory.

A worker of a nearby garment factory, who was walking in the area at that time of explosion, was killed and five others sustained serious injuries due to a wall collapse, said the statement.

A post-explosion inspection by an Accord team of fire, electrical and structural safety engineers identified critical structural and electrical damage and advised that the areas affected by the explosion must be evacuated until the factory has completed urgent safety remediation.

The engineers who investigated the premises after the accident found evidence of gas leaks in non-compliant gas cylinders and problems with the burner control box used to fuel two boilers in the factory.

The boiler room, containing three boilers utilised in the factory, is located in another area of the factory. The three boilers were not damaged by the explosion, the statement added.

The explosion has severely weakened the structure of the gas supply room area and caused damage to electrical cables and wiring in this area.

The relevant Accord signatories have requested that NSVL immediately evacuate the gas supply and fabric/yarn warehouse areas of the factory until urgent structural and electrical remediation work is completed and verified by the Accord engineers.

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 year while the platform wants to stay here for some more time.

The Supreme Court in May this year allowed the 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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