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Six Out Of Ten Factories In Bangladesh Found To Be Unsafe
June 13, 2013
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Nearly two months after that tragic building collapse in Bangladesh, there are troubling signs it could happen again.

New building inspections have revealed that six out of every 10 factories in Bangladesh are unsafe, reports the BBC.

And yet, many of them are still full of workers.

In one case, the BBC came across a big yellow banner outside a factory that said no one should be inside because the building has cracks in it.

Inside, however, there were hundreds of garment workers.

The Associated Press has also seen a recent survey of factories, that was done by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology - at the request of the government and the garment industry.

It found some major concerns, including...

- Bangladeshi garment factories are routinely built without consulting engineers

- Some add illegal extra floors on top of support columns that can't hold them

- Many factories are in buildings not designed to hold up under heavy manufacturing and machine vibrations (one of the causes of the April disaster)

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A young boy works at a metal factory in Bangladesh

The engineers looked at everything from the buildings' support columns and frames, to the foundation and ground they were built on.

AP says it saw the inspection results for about 200 buildings, on the condition they not be identified. It says the owners volunteered for the inspections, with some even paying for the surveys.

Many of the factories looked reasonably safe, but some were so dangerous engineers recommended they be closed on the spot.

"There were buildings that we found that were really critical and we asked them to immediately vacate those buildings," said Mujibur Rahman, head of the university's civil engineering department.

In fact, in some cases, Rahman said it would be safer for the owners to tear down the building and rebuild.

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The 1st sewing machine used by a woman killed in the Bangladesh building collapse

Here are a few excerpts from the AP story, with more details of what was found.

"They (the engineers) found a building approved for only six stories that had been expanded to 10. Support columns that were supposed to have five steel bars inside them had only two. Other columns were too small to support the structures. Some of the buildings had structural cracks that threatened their integrity."

"Another factory building had seven stories instead of the approved five and was meant for residential use. Its 25-centimetre by 25-centimetre (10-inch by 10-inch) columns were too small and the foundation was not wide enough to anchor the building in the red Dhaka clay. The engineers recommended closing the top two stories."

"Rahman said some owners begged him to change the recommendations, saying they had three months of back orders to fill and then could address the problems. He refused."

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The engineers were supposed to check out 400 or so buildings. But after they started, many owners stopped answering their phones, so they only got to see about 200.

Bangladesh's Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddique said the government was carrying out its own inspections and expects to shut down factories.

"I think 200 to 300 factories will be vulnerable, and I think we will identify those buildings very quickly," he said.

Officials with the garment industry have done inspections as well and found 200 or so risky factories - ordering 20 of them to be shut down.

Some will be moved to other buildings, others will be shored up and some can reopen after they get rid of heavy equipment on the upper floors.

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Firefighters work to put out a fire at a factory in the capital Dhaka

Last month, a number of major western retailers signed an international, 5-year agreement to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh.

Under the deal, the retailers will pay up to $500,000 each year to improve factory conditions in Bangladesh.

They also have to do independent safety inspections, make their reports on factory conditions public, and cover the cost of repairs and upgrades.

Canada's Loblaw, Benetton based in Italy, Sweden's H&M, C&A of the Netherlands, Ireland's Primark, England's Tesco, and Spain's Inditex (which owns Zara) all signed on.

Two other retailers - America's PVH, which makes clothes under the Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Izod brands, and Germany's Tchibo signed the deal last year.

Wal-Mart and the Gap have not.

Bangladesh's garment industry is worth about $20 billion a year, with some 4,000 factories and four million workers.

Related stories

Loblaw & Other Retailers Sign Bangladesh Fire & Safety Deal

Loblaw & Joe Fresh Say They'll Be A Force For Good In Bangladesh

Fast Fashion, Western Retailers, & The Bangladesh Building Collapse

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