DEHLI – The global apparel industry focus in April has been on Bangladesh and the five year anniversary of Rana Plaza – and rightly so. It is worth remembering, however, that Rana Plaza – where 1,130 people died – didn’t happen in isolation. A total of 1,512 ready-made garment workers lost their lives in Bangladesh between 2005 and 2013 according to Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies. Many of these deaths failed to make international news and it took Rana Plaza – an accident waiting to happen – to make international stakeholders sit up and take notice.
Which brings us onto other apparel sourcing destinations. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) recently claimed Bangladesh is a “model of workplace safety.” As far as textile sourcing hubs go, this may well be the case given the millions of dollars put into addressing safety issues there by the Bangladesh Accord and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.
But what about elsewhere? In Dehli, India, 28 workers have died in factory fires so far in 2018 – many of them working in garment factories. This month alone, reports from India show two workers were burnt to death in a jeans manufacturing unit at Gandhi Nagar in the Shahdara district of north-east Delhi; in February, one worker died after a fire broke out at a garment manufacturing unit in Karol Bagh; in April, two workers died in a blaze at a footwear manufacturing unit at an industrial area in Bhorgarh, Narela, in north-west Delhi; also in April, four workers died after fire broke out at a shoe manufacturing unit in Sultanpuri of north-west Delhi.
Bangladesh was littered with these kind of smaller scale tragedies in the run-up to Rana Plaza.
The likes of the Accord have done fantastic work in Bangladesh, but with other sourcing hubs remaining far from safe, is it time such organisations looked beyond Bangladesh?