WASHINGTON — The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety said in a six-month progress report made public on Monday that 31 percent, or 222, of the 700 garment factories its members use in Bangladesh have been inspected, putting it on track to hit the goal of inspections in 100 percent of the facilities by July.
The alliance — which includes Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gap Inc., Target Corp. and VF Corp. among other North American retailers and brands — said it has reached several goals since it launched its five-year fire and building safety initiative last July in the wake of two factory tragedies that claimed the lives of more than 1,240 workers.
The Alliance’s Committee of Experts is conducting a review of member company inspections to evaluate their compliance with the alliance’s fire, building and electrical standards. Factories not meeting the standard will be reinspected by qualified inspectors and the alliance will release a list this month of the factories that were reinspected and the names of factories that have not been inspected by its member companies.
The group also plans to implement help lines in 50 factories by March and roll help lines out to 100 factories by March 2015 with the goal of becoming fully functional in all of its factories by 2017, the report said. Its member companies have provided fire safety training at 218, or 31 percent, of the factories and plans to finish the training at all factories by July.
The Worker Safety Fund is up to $50 million, which is being used to provide training and worker empowerment tools, and there is $100 million in low-cost capital available to factories for loans to make safety improvements. The alliance also conducted a worker baseline survey and off-site interviews with more than 3,200 workers in 28 factories. The 700 factories under the alliance employ 1.28 million workers. Among the positive results, 87 percent of workers said they have participated in fire evacuation drills in the last three months and 73 percent said that health and safety was part of their orientation training.
Sixty-five percent of workers in focus groups indicated they preferred to work on a low floor for safety reasons, while 64 percent said they had witnessed fire incidents. The survey also found that 47 percent of respondents “feel they cannot leave the building quickly in case of emergency and 30 percent think there is a high risk of fire in their building.”