Half of factories have no safety clearance

Khadimul Islam

One in two factories in the country does not have a safety clearance from the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments.
DIFE statistics show that only 23,589 manufacturing units have taken safety clearance.
There are 42,792 factories in the country, according to BBS in 2012, which employ more than 50 lakh workers, revealed BBS’s 2013 economic census.
Factory owners and inspectors said that many manufacturing units were not even aware of the legally-
binding requirement to get licence from DIFE.
‘We launched a campaign in October last year to encourage factory owners to register with us but got a very poor response,’ said Inspector General of the DIFE Syed Ahmed, adding, ‘Most of the factory management have no idea about DIFE.’
He said, ‘Due to lack of manpower and jurisdiction, the DIFE failed to exercise its authority’. He hoped to launch a massive campaign from June.
According to DIFE, at least 3,743 readymade garment factories are now under regular supervision of their inspectors.
However, around 50 industrial sectors in the country, including jute, pharmaceuticals, ship-breaking and ship-building, chemicals and plastic manufacturers, mostly ignored registering with DIFE.
Syed Sultan Uddin Ahmed, assistant executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, said not having licence from DIFE was an offence in addition to not ensuring safety and hygiene in the workplace.
‘Thousands of factories are operating without ensuring safety of their workers and the DIFE should launch a drive to bring them under inspection,’ he added.
The DIFE chief said they had taken a move for a comprehensive database on factories to preserve inspection results and other information.
Shahidullah Azim, vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the DIFE was not serious enough about enforcing its mandate, contributing to the reluctance of owners to register with them.
‘All the exporting factories have DIFE clearance. As the government has now become serious, the company owners have also become more aware about ensuring inspection of safety,’ he said.
The government early this month also began a survey of factories that use flammable products and chemicals, and operate without licence.
A five-member committee formed by the DIFE already served notices to the factory owners, asking them to comply with labour law.
Following the fire accident at Apcco Bangladesh Limited – an unauthorised plastic factory at Mirpur in the capital – on January 31, that killed 13 people, DIFE formed the five-member committee..
The DIFE chief said the government had drafted a national inspection policy outlining provisions for specifying the jurisdiction and area of responsibility of inspectors, and for the authorities to ensure modern, effective and prevention-oriented labour inspection, and occupational and workplace safety.
The ministry of labour and employment took the move after the deadly industrial accidents – Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza collapse – that killed at least 1,249 workers, mostly garment workers.

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