Workers’ rights groups highlight H&M supplier among firms failing basic safety measures initiated after 2013 Rana Plaza disaster
By Sarah Butler
Rescuers gather at the collapsed eight-storey
More than half of H&M’s top suppliers based in
have yet to install basic
fire-safety measures more than two years after the Rana Plaza factory
collapse spurred an international effort to improve safety in the country. Bangladesh
More than a third of H&M’s top-rated “gold” and “platinum” graded suppliers have not removed sliding doors and collapsible gates, according to a report by workers’ rights groups, including the Clean Clothes Campaign.
The report adds that 13% of those suppliers have failed to take the basic step of removing locks from doors which could impede workers escaping a fire.
two international coalitions designed to assess and help fund improvements to building and fire safety at thousands of garment factories in . The building housed several factories making clothing for brands including Primark, Matalan and Benetton. The scale of the disaster led to the creation of
Most European retailers signed up to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which oversees more than 1,600 factories used by stores such as H&M, Marks & Spencer and Primark.
The accord’s inspectors have set out structural, electrical and fire-safety improvement plans for the majority of the factories. But more than two and a half years on all but 10% of those plans are behind schedule and only two were completed by December, the time of the last progress report.
The accord’s list of factories does not reveal the brands. H&M is one of only a handful of brands to reveal a list of all its suppliers internationally, and campaigners have used that to check up on its progress.
“We are particularly concerned by the slow pace of those renovations that are most critical to saving lives in the case of a fire,” said the report. “The hazards still waiting to be addressed are life threatening in nature.”
Anna McMullen, from Labour Behind the Label, a pressure group which is part of the Clean Clothes network, praised H&M for revealing its list of suppliers enabling third parties to check progress at the factories. But she said: “This huge collaboration is not delivering on what it promised to do. Key brands need to lead the way and the biggest bear most responsibility.”
A spokesperson for H&M said: “Fire exits are one of the most fundamental requirements for a supplier, in order to be allowed to produce for H&M. There have always been clear escape routes in our supply chain although they are in the process of being improved in accordance with new standards. We are in close dialogue with the suppliers and are following up on the work that remains to be done.”
The spokesperson added: “We continue to take a very active role within the accord and are following the remediation plan progress closely. We see good progress, but to further speed up the remediation we are currently working closely together with [international trade union] IndustriALL with full transparency to use our combined leverage where needed.”
An accord spokesman said that it recognised that progress in making factories safer had been too slow and that it had hired more than 30 engineers to speed up monitoring. It had also sent out more than 200 formal warning letters to factories, which could entail their being struck off as suppliers under the legally binding agreement.
Five factories were struck off in December and one this month, taking the total to nine so far.