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Safety concerns in Asia-Pacific region catch US attention

Posted on by SST

After a fire ended in devastation at the Tazreen Fashion factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh Nov. 2012, another fire-related incident unfolded at the Proform Plastics factory in Hamilton, New Zealand around 8 p.m. Tuesday October 22, and the U.S. is taking notice of the new factory and safety standards. 

Plastics factory fire
Emergency responders were called to the scene of a New Zealand plastics factory at 5:40 p.m. after an employee alerted an evening shift manager said Megan Ruru, a fire service manager.  Authorities said the fire, whose origins are unknown, started in the corner of the building and did not injure anyone at the scene. 

Ruru said she was uncertain if any hazardous chemicals were inside the factory at the time of the fire. Steve Smith, the evening shift manager, asserted the fire was contained by 7:20 p.m., however firefighter continued to use fire suppression methods to subdue hot spots. 

U.S. safety advocacy in Asia-Pacific region
A U.S.-led group based in Washington known as The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety issued a press release Tuesday detailing a list of "essential milestones" set forth in the past month, the group said. The goal of the group is to create and maintain safer and up-to-date workplace provisions in the wake of recent safety-related tragedies.

First on the list of desired implementations is a strict adoption of fire and building safety standards, with which the committee worked alongside third party fire safety experts. These new standards are in line with Bangladesh's national building codes and reflect input from a number of agencies working on the project, including support and funding from 23 American garment and apparel suppliers.

The alliance also works alongside – and on behalf of – over 630 ready-made garment factories in the U.S. and Bangladesh. The group has received compliance from over half of the factories already, agreeing to be inspected for fire and building safety standards in an effort to prevent further fatalities and structural damage to garment companies who produce and ship materials from overseas. Although the Proform factory fire did not result in any injuries, the Bangladesh incident took 112 worker's lives. 

Such safety provisions could include inspecting required fire safety certificates, better evacuation routes, re-staffing of ground-level workers ensuring each fire extinguisher works properly and is accessible. During the Bangladesh fire, not a single fire extinguisher appeared to be used even as a fire alarm system echoed throughout the building.

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