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.

Since opening our doors, the Alliance has inspected all of the 598 factories from which our Members source, trained almost 1.2 million workers in fire safety, and started a worker helpline, called Amader Kotha – operated by Clear Voice, Phulki, and Good World Solutions – which has been rolled out to over 250 factories. These successes would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our staff, along with our colleagues and members companies around the world. I’m extremely proud of our extended team.

At the same time, we are all reminded that the challenge for the Alliance is just beginning. Now that our factories have been inspected, we are facing the task of remediating each one. We found an average of 82 issues related to fire safety, electrical safety, or structural integrity per factory, demonstrating the hard work that lies ahead.

Our remediation team will assign case managers to each factory  and perform verification visits at least three times next year to confirm that findings are being addressed safely and correctly. Between those visits, we’ll be in constant communication with factories to ensure that progress is being made, to help address questions that may arise, and to ensure that factories have access to technical expertise and oversight. For example, we are working with fire safety engineers to approve fire alarm and sprinkler designs so factory owners can be confident that they are installing appropriate systems for their building layouts and sizes.

On a broader level, we also hope to continue working with the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Bangladesh government to build in-country knowledge and access to the equipment necessary for improving factory safety. In order for factory safety to be sustained and to continue to improve beyond the life of the Alliance, Bangladesh needs the development of a local industry capable of providing credible and effective safety solutions. This will require ongoing collaboration between buyers, suppliers, government, technical experts, civil society, and trade unions with the shared goal of protecting factory workers for generations to come.

We’re launching the Alliance Blog to provide another mechanism for communicating about our programs and the daily experiences of our staff, partners, and factories. Through this, we’ll provide insight into what occurs during safety inspections and how factories are dealing with common findings, highlight the work of our trainers and helpline operators, and share best practices and challenges around worker empowerment initiatives. We also aim to create dialogue around trends in factory safety, how companies can affect worker well-being by promoting transparency and accountability, and institutionalizing the work of the Alliance as we move toward 2018.

We believe that shared responsibility with partners is key to lasting, sustainable solutions. We encourage stakeholders to provide feedback on our efforts so we can scale up successful initiatives and make adjustments where we need improvement. Please join us on our journey as we work to upgrade factories, educate workers and management on factory safety, empower workers, and build institutions that can enforce and maintain safe working conditions throughout Bangladesh.

By Mesbah Rabin, Managing Director, Alliance Dhaka

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