The Bangladesh Accord was set up five years ago to help improve fire and buildning safety in the Bangladesh textile industry. The Bangladesh Accord is now monitoring over 1,600 factories and H&M Group was one of the first companies to sign it. In 2017, the national government of Bangladesh extended the Accord's permission to operate beyond May 2018. In June 2017, H&M Group signed the newly named Transition Accord. The Accord will continue its current operations and remediation programme until local regulatory bodies have the full capacity to take over. The Transition Accord will remain in operation until May 2021.
In general, there is a need of improving fire and building safety in Bangladesh — a country where poor electrical installations and bad maintenance is common. As a consequence, the textile industry in Bangladesh is today experiencing a substantial transformation when it comes to fire safety and is now converting into Western safety standards. This is a huge and complex work, but extremely important. It requires specialist knowledge, availability of international safety equipment and the necessary technical know-how. It is of utmost importance that all measures taken are according to the quality standards agreed in the industry.
Our signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh was a complement to the work we started several years ago, and a great way forward as we want to involve a wide range of actors pushing for change in the entire textile industry in Bangladesh, not only the factories producing for H&M Group. With this commitment, we are able – together with other companies, global trade unions, employers’ organizations and the Bangladeshi government – to actively influence and contribute to improved workplace safety in the textile industry. Across this grouping, we are working jointly to improve the situation of around 1,600 factories in Bangladesh of which around 250 produce for H&M Group. We have a staff of almost 600 in Bangladesh, who works to support suppliers, including improving production facilities to safer and higher international standards. All factories we work with are approved for operation by the Accord.
To further speed up the remediation we are working closely with IndustriALL to use our combined leverage where needed. We are also in close contact with the suppliers to support them and follow up on the work that remains to be done.
Below is data on findings included in the Accord inspection.
MANDATORY H&M GROUP REQUIREMENTS AT ALL FACTORIES PRODUCING FOR H&M GROUP
- Two emergency exits on each floor.
- Fire alarm installed on a separate power line, connected to its own generator.
- Emergency light connected to a battery in case of power failure.
- Fire extinguishers clearly marked and tested.
- Easy to understand evacuation plans posted on the walls.
- Regular fire evacuation drills for all employees and all shifts as well as documented minutes of these.
- Production is not allowed in buildings shared by other companies or businesses. This requirement was introduced in 2009 and suppliers in shared buildings were gradually phased out.
ADDITIONAL ACCORD REQUIREMENTS
- Fire door:
New upgraded fire doors are installed at every exit at factories enabling a safe evacuation. They are self-closing and have a fire-resitant function preventing the fire ore smoke from spreading within a building. The doors are certified according to international standards and must be installed by a certified engineer. Stairwells connected to a fire door must be a sealed compartent so that no smoke or fire can spread.
- Sprinkler system:
All high-rise buildings must be provided with automatic fire sprinkler systems throughuot the buildings spraying water into the room in case of a fire incident. Sprinkler systems are not available in Bangladesh, but imported from abroad and must be installed by a certified engineer.
- Removal of sliding, collapsible and rolling shutter doors:
These doors open either by sliding, folding back or rolling upwards and downward. They are now removed and will be verified by the Accord. Where required, they are replaced by new, outward opening doors equipped with a push-bar technique. This will enable a faster and safer evacuation in case of an emergency.
- Removal of locking feature:
All factories producing for the H&M Group must have clear evacuation routes. This is why any locks at all factory entrances must be easily opened from the inside with one manual motion, for example a push bar complying with international standards.
H&M Group and the ACCORD
H&M Group has been engaged to the fullest in the ACCORD since the beginning. We firmly stand behind the commitment we re-signed in 2017, under the Transitional ACCORD. In a long-term perspective, we are convinced that the underlying purpose of the establishment of the ACCORD was to set the standards and working method for the Bangladesh national authorities to take full ownership over the safety of the industry. To guarantee that this happens in a satisfactory manner, and considering the timeline we are confronted with, we are supporting the ACCORD to work out an effective transition plan. This must be done with the Bangladesh Government, taking into consideration also BGMEA, ILO and other stakeholders’ input, to make sure that the ACCORD will support the transition in terms of knowledge-transfer and intensive support on the capacity building until the National Remediation Coordination Cell (RCC) is fully ready to carry out credible inspections.
A member of our senior management team, representing H&M as a member of the ACCORD steering committee, has engaged in the ongoing discussions at government and industry level in Bangladesh to support the Transitional ACCORD to be secured to continue its operation as planned. We have also participated in the two hearings at the EU commission and additionally been engaged in the Transition Monitoring Committee (TMC) that are overseeing the handover.