The Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka collapsed on 24 April 2013, killing 1,134 workers and leaving about 2,500 with injuries, many of them life-changing.
While significant strides have been made to enhance worker protection throughout supply chains, Craig Foyle, President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), has warned against “complacency” and said “we must ensure there is never another Rana Plaza”.
A recent report from the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an initiative to bring together big brand names and unions to tackle health and safety issues in factories, revealed that nearly 700 factories had made much safer, but added “major life-threatening safety concerns remain outstanding in too many factories”.
Mr Foyle said: “On this fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, our thoughts go out to all of those affected by the awful events of that day.
“Since then, steps have been taken to improve working conditions for people in garment factories and other workplaces. However, we know that there are still major health and safety issues present, so much more needs to be done.
“We must continue to strive for the best-possible standards of worker health and safety, no matter where in the world and no matter what the industry.
“No one should have their life cut short by work, so we must avoid complacency and seek to ensure that workers return home to their families fit and well. Put simply, we must ensure there is never another Rana Plaza.”
Among the steps taken to improve health and safety management is the introduction of the OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) Initiative for Workers and Communities, which is co-funded by IOSH.
This has seen a cohort of 29 people undergo training to enable them to deliver workshops to raise health and safety standards in Bangladesh’s factories and communities.
In the past few weeks, they have led five-day workshops on topics including workplace hazard identification, ergonomics, and other issues like labour law, leadership and life skills. More than 450 workers and community members have attended so far.
The trainers will receive ongoing support while more will be recruited throughout this year as the scheme develops.
Richard Jones, IOSH’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “Upskilling at grassroots level is vital and even small-scale projects can help. So, IOSH was pleased to co-fund the OHS Initiative for Workers and Community in Bangladesh. The training, over 20 days, used interactive audio-visual materials and participation, as well as visits to garment factories to gain real-life experience. It’ll now be cascaded across the sector potentially helping to save and transform lives.”
Other measures have included the introduction of ISO 20400 (sustainable procurement guide), which helps businesses ensure socially responsible procurement, while the new ISO 45001 international health and safety standard requires businsses to have processes to control the procurement of products and services to ensure their conformity to it.
Mr Jones added: “It’s about extending risk management as far into the supply chain as organisations have control and influence. We need responsible procurement (realistic timescales and costings) and ongoing work with suppliers to raise standards.”