Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry has grown to become the second largest in the world. The particular sector has become a key driver of the Bangladesh economy and the nation’s development. RMG exports totaled US$24.5 billion (2013-14) accounting to over 80 per cent of the nation’s export earnings and employing around 4 million workers, an estimated 55-60 per cent of whom are women. The loss of 1,136 lives when Rana Plaza collapsed on 24 April 2013 sent shock waves worldwide. Coming just months after the fatal fire at Tazreen Fashions in which 112 died it was clear that the RMG sector had reached a crucial juncture. Business could not continue as usual. The ILO responded quickly to the Rana Plaza tragedy with a high level mission to Dhaka in the beginning of May 2013. After that it agreed immediate and medium term actions with the Government of Bangladesh and employers’ and workers’ organizations. These were integrated into the National Tripartite Plan of Action on fire safety and structural integrity (NTPA), which was developed following the Tazreen factory fire in November 2012. Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza it was decided that 3,508 export-oriented RMG factories should undergo structural, fire and electrical safety inspections.
Two initiatives representing international brands and retailers: the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety have carried out inspections of the factories which their member companies source from. In total three initiatives inspected 3,780 factories of which 1,549 were assessed through the national initiative. A total of 39 factories have been closed for posing an immediate danger to workers.