The international clothing retailers that vowed to improve working conditions after a deadly building collapse at one of the Bangladeshi garment factories that supply their clothes have released a list of nearly 1,600 factories that will be covered by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety they signed.

The Rana Plaza, an eight-storey garment factory in Savar, near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 people and shedding light on unsafe working conditions in the industry.

Friday's release of the participating sites in the safety accord is the first step to improving job conditions and safety in the factories that make garments for the 90 signatories to the accord, which include H&M, Zara, Joe Fresh, Benetton and  PVN.

There are nearly 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh, so not every workplace is covered by the accord.

The Bangladeshi factories collectively employ more than two million garment workers, with each factory working for multiple international companies.

The accord includes details about each of the factories, including:

  • Name and address of each factory.
  • How many storeys in the building.
  • Whether it houses multiple factories.
  • The number of workers in each factory.
  • The number of international companies having garments made in the building.

The basic data lays the foundation for the accord, in which companies from Europe and North America pledged to pay the costs of inspections and improvements to the factories, many of which are structurally unsound, overcrowded, inadequately ventilated and replete with fire hazards.

Failure to comply will carry repercussions

The legally binding five-year agreement will see independent safety inspections conducted by an auditor hired by the signatories to the accord, mandatory repairs and renovations and repercussions for suppliers who refuse to improve conditions, including the termination of business.

The Dhaka-area garment factory that collapsed lacked emergency exits and had several floors that had reportedly been added illegally and compromised the integrity of the structure.

The tragedy focused worldwide attention on the sorry state of many Bangladeshi garment factories and the generally hazardous working conditions in the textile industry.

In the past month, Bangladeshi workers have protested in the streets against the low wages paid to garment makers, currently paid about $38 US a month.

The accord will launch a website Monday to make its processes more transparent to the public.

Many North America retailers, including Canadian Tire, signed a separate accord, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which puts more onus on the Bangladeshi government to play a role in worker safety in future by upgrading national fire and building standards