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Preventing Tragedy

By: Russ Jowell
Dec 4

The final days of November 2012 were ones filled with tragedy in Bangladesh. On Saturday, Novmeber 24, a massive fire broke out on the ground floor of the Tazreen Fashion Limited factory near Dhaka, killing over 100 people. Numerous other fires were reported in several other factories throughout the country in the days that followed, albiet none as big as the Tazreen fire. Several reports suggested that the immense loss of life at the Tazreen factory may have been linked to the ill-preparadness of the factory and its workers to deal with fire. Survivors say that there was no emergency exit and that the main exit was locked at the time of the fire. There are also claims that many of the factory’s fire extinguishers were not working and that workers did not know how to use the ones that did. Whether these claims are true or not, they highlight the important fact that fire prevention and safety within a garment factory begins with education and traininig. These elements, in fact, go way beyond just fire safety, they permiate through every aspect of a factory’s operation, especially social compliance, which is why fire safety has become a major part of WRAP’s activities.

Launched in September 2011, WRAP’s factory fire safety training course has already distinguished itself as an effective learning experience, going way beyond the scope of most comparable courses. We believe that training for fire response must go beyond just drills; it must also look at the science behind a fire (specifically what caues one to start and spread), how to assess and minimize fire risk, and training on the use of fire suppression tools like fire extinguishers. Most importantly, we believe that good factory fire safety begins with knowing how to prevent fires from ever happening. WRAP’s course looks at a number of topics including local fire safety laws, designing and carrying out an evacuation plan, identifying and removing fire hazards from the workplace, and how to operate various fire fighting equipment. What makes the course especially effective, however, is that it is interactive. We believe that the best way to lean fire safety is through hands-on practice. Our course includes a live demonstration in the use of fire extinguishing equipment and instruction on the internationally-practiced 5-Step Risk Assessment Process. Our attendees have had nothing but praise for the course. “We now understand how to prevent fire incidents in their primary stage,” said one attendee. Numerous sessions have been planned in Bangladesh for 2013 and WRAP is also pleased to announce that the course will be expanded to Pakistan with 5 sessions planned for December 2012.

All of us at WRAP express our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones in the fire. No loss of life is ever acceptable in the garment sector. With that in mind however, we cannot use this recent string of tragedies as an excuse to shutter Bangladesh’s garment industry. It has fueled an economic boom unlike any in the country’s history and has set a vital foundation for future prosperity. But we must be cognizant of potential dangers within this vital sector and do our best to keep garment production safe, ethical, and responsible.

Click here for more information on WRAP’s Factory Fire Safety Training.

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