How Amader Kotha is Helping One Factory Resolve Safety Issues

The Alliance launched a 3rd party worker Helpline – called Amader Kotha (“Our Voice”) – in July 2014. It has been rolled out to 371 factories and will be introduced in the remaining Alliance factories as part of our upcoming fire safety refresher training (to be launched this fall). Since December 2014, we have received 25,256 total calls, of which 2,218 were related to substantive issues (while most of the other calls were informational or test calls made during factory trainings). The top five issues related to safety for both urgent and non-urgent calls are listed in the table below. safety 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remediation Verification Visits: Tracking Factory Progress After Inspections Are Done

With all Alliance factories inspected, a common question we get is: how do you know factories are making the required safety improvements?  The Alliance’s 32-member remediation team is entirely focused on the answer to this question — in partnership with my team, I spend five days a week in factories to verify they are making progress.

584 of our factories have received approved CAPs and are now in the remediation phase of the Alliance program. Alliance factories have an average of 87 open findings listed in their CAPs.

After the inspection, factories rely on their approved Corrective Action Plans (CAP) for guidance on how to manage remediation (you can read more about the CAP development and approval process in my colleague Wahid’s blog post). Factories work with their internal engineering teams and/or external consultants to close the findings in order to improve the safety of their factories. These changes can be physical or organizational in nature, including: (more…)

Finding Electrical Hotspots Before They Turn Into Fires: The Role of Thermographic Scanning

Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense officials believe that a majority of fires in RMG factories occur due to electrical faults and malfunctions. For this reason, the Alliance places a high priority on remediating electrical hazards as a means of preventing disasters like those that have plagued the industry in the past.

Infrared imaging – also known as thermographic scanning – is the most effective tool available to our engineers for identifying urgent electrical risks. IMG_4608Unlike conventional cameras, infrared scanners capture radiation and produce images that show the relative temperature of electrical equipment. At a minimum, there are 40 types of electrical equipment that should be scanned (if found onsite), such as fuse boxes, water and vacuum pump electrical systems, and fan and coils panels. The greatest concerns arise when we see the largest temperature differential. Regular scans of all equipment should be done every few years, though the required frequency of this task may increase based on past incidence of hotspots. (more…)

What We Learn Through Spot-Checks – the Good and the Bad

By Nurul Azam and Quamrunnessa Babli

With our use of a Train-the-Trainer model to implement the Alliance Basic Fire Safety Training, unannounced spot-checks are very important for ensuring that factories are following through with their commitment to train all workers. Through our training program, each Alliance factory nominates representatives (consisting of both workers and managers) to be trained as Alliance Fire Safety Facilitators, who are then tasked with training the rest of their workforce. The quality of the training therefore relies heavily on the skills of these fire safety facilitators and the support they receive from management to conduct the training according to guidelines. (more…)

From Inspections to Remediation: Creating Factory Corrective Action Plans

Having completed inspections for the Alliance’s 650+ factories, we are now focused on remediating all of the open findings to make the buildings safer for workers. Each inspection results in three factory reports – structural, fire, and electrical – that can be found on our website’s inspection report page. We also post draft Corrective Action Plans (CAPs), which consolidate the open findings listed in the reports and allow the Alliance, the individual member companies, and Qualified Assessment Firms (QAFs) to work with factory owners and management representatives on detailed plans of action for each finding. Each CAP includes information on the proposed action, the person(s) responsible for remediating the open finding, and an estimated date of completion.  (more…)

Amader Kotha: The Factory Perspective

By Quamrunnessa Babli and S.M. Nurul Azam

In December, we invited Alliance factory representatives to share their experiences with the Alliance Worker Helpline, Amader Kotha. The helpline provides workers a number to call if they want to report safety concerns, with the calls answered by live operators. Since July 2014, the helpline has been introduced to nearly 300 factories through trainings where (1) workers learn when to use the helpline and receive materials with the helpline number, and (2) factorie2014-12-10 16.30.16s provide internal contacts that helpline representatives call if issues are reported from their factory.  When we first launched, some factories were not eager to participate – though many supported the use of the helpline for safety issues, they were also concerned that workers might abuse it to report other concerns (or even false allegations). Five months and 6,000+ calls later, we invited factories back into the Alliance office to give us their feedback on the helpline, both the good and the bad. Here are some key findings that came out of that conversation. (more…)

Worker Compensation: What happens to workers when factories close?

When our 28 members joined the Alliance, they signed a Member Agreement that outlines the commitments each company agrees to uphold throughout the tenure of Alliance membership. Responsibilities include the creation of a Worker Safety Fund, part of which is used to support workers that are temporarily displaced due to factory safety concerns or remediation activities. After a critical safety coIMG_20141211_100910ncern has been identified, the factory may have to suspend partial or full production based on the inspection findings and recommendations of the National Tripartite Committee Review Panel. In order to reduce the impact these closures place on workers, the Alliance shares in the compensation to workers so there is no loss of income while the factory is being remediated. This compensation also helps support workers during their employment search if the factory is permanently closed. Supporting worker compensation is an important initiative of the Alliance because it ensures workers will receive their wages or separation benefit while also reducing the burden placed on factory owners, who are already facing potentially high remediation costs. To date, the Alliance has disbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars (USD) to more than 4,300 workers at four factories.

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Ms. Akhi Akter: A Fire Safety Ambassador in her Factory

At the Social & Environmental Excellence Awards on December 9th, I was extremely proud of one award the Alliance presented – the award for Best Trainer to Ms. Akhi Akter. A newly promoted Assistant Cutting Supervisor (previously working as Sr. Cutting Operator) at the Hop Yick (Bangladesh) Limited factory, Akhi received this award for her outstanding performance as a Fire Safety Worker Representative in her factory.

Akhi is one of several representatives from her factory who participated in the 2-day Alliance’s Basic Fire Safety Train-the-Trainer program, where 3rd Master Trainers taught her, her colleagues, and representatives from other factories to deliver the 3-hour in-factory Basic Fire Safety Training. (more…)

2nd International Building & Fire Safety Expo

After the success of thephoto first Expo in February, the Alliance was excited to bring garment industry leaders together again with international safety equipment vendors for the 2nd International Building & Fire Safety Expo from December 7-9. As testament to the growing interest in building and fire safety in Bangladesh, participation in this Expo was more than double that of the first, with nearly 10,000 participants over the three days (and approximately 4,000 unique registrations). This gathering at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center in Dhaka amounts to the largest gathering of fire and safety equipment vendors, factory representatives and other stakeholders in Bangladesh’s history – and comes at a critical time, when garment factories are searching for certified products and have questions on everything from procurement to installation to maintenance. (more…)

Ready for the Challenges Ahead

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As the Alliance team has been busy preparing for the 2nd International Building & Fire Safety Expo, launching a training for security guards, and meeting with factories on how to remediate issues found through safety inspections, few are aware that we’re also about to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the Alliance Dhaka office. We opened the office with six staff on December 9, 2013. Just one year later, our team has grown to a team of over 40 and we’ve doubled the size of the office – testament to both the work we’ve accomplished over the last 12 months and the work that still lies ahead. (more…)