Buyers to cut ties with RMG units having collapsible gates

Staff Correspondent

Forums of Western apparel brands and retailers have threatened to cut business relations with their Bangladeshi supplier factories in which collapsible gates at exits still exist.
Senior officials of Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a platform of North American buyers, said the platform recently issued a seven-day ultimatum to the factory owners to remove the collapsible gates.
‘The deadline ended in the first week of this month and now we are verifying whether the supplier factories have removed collapsible gates from exit points or not,’ an Alliance official told New Age on Sunday.
According to the Bangladesh National Building Code, all exit access doors must be of a side-swinging type. Sliding or hanging must not be used as means of exit and all exit doors must be openable from the side without use of a key.
After finalising the corrective action plan the factory owners got time up to one year and three months to remove collapsible gates from the exits but most of the factory owners did not remove those, the Alliance official said.
He said that recently the authorities of a number of the supplier factories sent to the Alliance still photos and videos that showed collapsible gates from the exits at their units were removed.
Officials of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said that the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a platform of EU brands and retailers, also warned the factory owners over the issue.
After warnings from the Accord and the Alliance, a good number of factories removed the collapsible gates from the exit points but all the factories could not install fire doors, the BGMEA officials said.
Recently, the BGMEA held separate meetings with the Accord and the Alliance on the issue of collapsible gates at the main entrance of the factories.
‘The Accord agreed that a door which swings to the outside, is not lockable to prevent way out and has a panic bar assembly, is required at all exits including main entries,’ Mahmud Hassan Khan Babu, vice-president of the BGMEA, told New Age.
The Accord also agreed the door does not necessarily have to be a listed fire door depending on the exit plan of the building, he said.
The BGMEA and the Accord also agreed that factory owners could preserve sliding and lockable style entry gates provided a separate outward swinging, non-lockable for egress door with panic bar assembly was installed in the exit area, Babu said.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed more than 1,100 people, mostly garment workers, in April 2013, North American retailers formed the Alliance and European retailers formed the Accord undertaking a five-year plan which set timeframes and accountability for inspections and
training and workers’ empowerment programmes in Bangladesh.
Under the plan, the Alliance inspected more than 700 factories while the Accord inspected about 2,300 units.

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