After the success of the 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.
We were pleased to share our event space with the Dhaka Apparel Summit, which was organized by BGMEA to discuss the future of the garment industry in Bangladesh. The opening ceremony included speeches from government officials and honored guests, including the Honorable Ellen O. Tauscher, Independent Chair of the Alliance Board of Directors. The opening ceremony culminated in an address by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who then took the opportunity to tour the Expo floor and see firsthand what is being done to build capacity and strengthen the industry. As the Alliance and the Accord are both five-year initiatives that will expire in July 2018, building and fire safety capacity must be expanded within the Bangladesh government, and we are grateful for Prime Minister Hasina’s continued support.
We are happy to note that participants found the Expo to be helpful and relevant, as determined by an Alliance survey of participants. Of the surveyed visitors who attended both the February and December Expos, 92% say this Expo was better than the first. Additionally, many attendees think that insufficient fire safety equipment is one of the biggest challenges to creating safe workplaces and that the Expo was a great opportunity for them to learn more about the equipment and technologies in relation to fire safety. Exhibitors such as Honeywell, Litchfield, NAFFCO, Tyco and UL were on hand to share their technological knowledge with attendees.
Participants also highlighted untrained managers and workers as top challenges in ensuring workplace safety, which is why the Expo included lecture tracks on topics such as fire door and sprinkler requirements, understanding detailed engineering assessments, and managing structural loads. We are excited that so many of the factories we work with visited the Alliance booth to ask remediation questions and listen to information sessions, such as a fire safety training. I was personally able to witness factory owners visiting stalls and attending lectures. Even in my own career in the fire brigade, I typically only dealt with fire suppression equipment and wasn’t aware that there is so much more involved with fire safety. I have learned a great deal since joining the Alliance and similarly, factory owners are becoming educated about potential fire hazards. They are learning what needs to be corrected and how to select the right products for their factories. For example, this Expo allowed them to see what a proper fire door looks like, what the certification labels should read, and how to use the doors effectively. Now they can take that knowledge back to their factories to inform and protect their workers.
There is a lot more to be learned about remediating factories and we have a long way to go. We are encouraged by the interest in the Expo and are eager to use the event as another step in sharing best practice strategies and building relationships between factories and equipment vendors. We offer huge thanks to the many stakeholders who contributed to making this 2nd Expo a success!