The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

In May 2013 the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was established for five years. The Accord  is a binding instrument initiated by Bangladeshi trade unions and Global Union Federations together with labour rights groups. It has been signed by over 200 global fashion brands and retailers, Bangladeshi trade unions and Global Union Federations. Clean Clothes Campaign is one of the four witness signatories. The ILO (International Labor Organisation) functions as neutral chair.

A follow-up programme, the 2018 Transition Accord was announced in June 2017 in recognition that while laudable progress toward safety was achieved since May 2013 much remains to be done to achieve a safe RMG industry in Bangladesh. That is why the Agreement mandated a three or possible four year term commencing 1 June 2018. In October 2017 an agreement was reached between the Ministries of Commerce and Labour, the employers' organization BGMEA, and 2018 Transition Accord signatory representatives about a process to regulate a transition to national oversight structures according to rigorous standards. Have a look here to see which brands did and did not sign the 2018 Accord.

The Accord requires the signatory brands to disclose who their supplier factories are. The Accord also requires independent building inspections on fire, electrical and structural safety, worker rights trainings, and a long-overdue review of safety standards.

Fashion brands, together with their supplier factory, are responsible to compensate the workers during any closure for remediation and maintenance resulting from the inspections. The inspections are carried out by safety inspectors from international firms, and Bangladesh engineers.

The Accord is unique in being supported by all key labour rights stakeholders in Bangladesh and internationally, and being legally binding.

The Accord Safety Inspections

The initial inspections of garment factories were conducted in 2014 through international engineering firms; 38 teams of fire, electrical and structural engineers work with Bangladeshi engineers and technicians in the initial inspection process. The initial inspections in 1500 factories will be completed by the end of August 2014.

The inspection engineers teams are accountable to the Accord as a whole - not to any individual brand or factory. Signatory companies are responsible to work with supplier factories to ensure sufficient funds are available to implement the necessary renovations and other safety improvements as required by the safety inspector, workers regular income and employment relationship are maintained during any period that a factory (or portion of a factory) is closed for renovations, and the right of workers to refuse unsafe work without suffering discrimination or loss of pay, including refusal to enter or to remain inside a building unsafe for occupation.

Assessments of the Accord were done by CCC and other witness signatories in the report three years after Rana Plaza and in a memo four years on.

The Accord in practice

The reports of the Accord's inspections along with their Corrective Action Plans are published on the Accord website.

Examples of issues identified in inspections

  • Need to remove lockable gates on exits and install fire doors, automatic sprinkler system and automatic fire alarm system.
  • Need to reduce weight loads in certain areas of the factory through moving material, stock, or supplies.
  • Requirement for better support for and enclosure of electrical cables and need to improve maintenance procedures around items such as electrical circuits, for example keeping them free of dust.

Safety Inspection – step by step

  • A notice of inspection is issued two weeks prior to the inspection to the factory
  • Teams of safety inspectors conduct the inspection
  • A report of the inspection, along with a remediation plan where needed, is sent to the factory owner, the signatory brand and worker representatives within two weeks of the inspection
  • Owner, brands and worker representatives discuss the report and develop a final remediation plan
  • The final remediation plan is reviewed by  Accord staff
  • The inspection reports and final remediation plan are published on the Accord website within six weeks after the inspection
  • Continuous monitoring of the Corrective Action Plans by Accord inspectors

Brand compliance to the Accord

The Accord has an unprecedented level of tranparency, which makes it possible to follow the progress factories are making. In the second half of 2015 the four Accord witness factories decided to use this information to check the progress of H&M's most trusted suppliers. The result was shocking: most supplier factories were far behind schedule in repairing the safety defects that Accord inspectors found. Follow up research in January 2016 and May 2016 showed some progress, but still left the majority of these key suppliers without safe fire exits. To increase pressure on H&M we held an international day of action, on which people in over 40 cities worldwide made their voices heard. 

Jyrki Raina on the Bangladesh Accord

Jyrki Raina was general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union at the time that the Accord was agreed upon

Why all brands need to sign the 2018 Transition Accord

The Shirt On Your Back

We highly recommend this interactive documentary by The Guardian, about the human cost of the Bangladeshi garment industry. Opens in a separate tab.

The Shirt On Your Back

Also: an extensive overview of factory accidents
in Bangladesh, 1990-2013

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The work of the Clean Clothes Campaign is supported by the European Union under the European Instrument of Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The contents of this website are the sole responsibility of the Clean Clothes Campaign and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.