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Blaze a warning for Kingdom

Blaze a warning for Kingdom

2 bangladeshi woman
A Bangladeshi woman mourns as she holds the body of a relative who died in a fire in the nine-storey Tazreen Fashion plant in Savar, India, about 30 kilometres north of Dhaka on November 25. Reuters

A steep drop in Cambodian garment and footwear factory compliance with safety standards must be reversed to avoid disasters like the fire that killed more than 100 workers in Bangladesh in November, an International Labour Organization-Better Factories Cambodia  (BFC) report says.
In a decline of 30 per cent, only 57 per cent of factories profiled by BFC during its latest monitoring period had fire-access paths free of obstruction, according to the 29th Synthesis Report on Working Conditions in Cambodia’s Garment Sector, released yesterday.
“This report notes a worrisome decline in compliance in some key areas of occupational safety and health,” it says.
Jill Tucker, ILO-BFC chief technical adviser, said growth in the industry – 11 per cent in the first nine months of 2012 – could likely explain the finding.
“However, growth should not result in an increase in non-compliance among factories in an area as intrinsic to worker safety as having clear pathways,” she said. “Recent garment-sector fire tragedies in neighbouring countries demonstrate the great need for Cambodia to address this issue.”
Fire razed the Tazreen Fashion factory, a Walmart supplier, in Dhaka on November 24, killing 117 workers.
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union, said many garment workers in Cambodia were at risk. “Most factories do not have fire-clear safety paths or signs,” he said. “The owners of the factories should clear all equipment blocking these paths, and authorities should monitor this.”
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre, said some factories had little regard for fire safety.
“Also, I’ve talked to workers who said they’ve never been trained in fire evacuation.”
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general Ken Loo said, however, that each BFC synthesis report was conducted with a different set of factories.
“But we accept the reports, and we want to make sure our factories are complying with safety requirements. We want to ensure workers are safe.”
BFC assessed 136 factories from May 1 to October 31 last year. Other findings showed that 88 per cent of factories were exceeding the two-hour daily overtime limit and “no significant improvement in many of the compliance indicators thought to contribute to fainting incidents” had occurred.

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