Apparel factory building reports: Most factories miss deadline

Moinul Haque

More than a half of 4,500 apparel factories now in operation across the country have not yet submitted their structural designs and soil test reports to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association as the deadline expired on Thursday.
After the collapse of Rana Plaza on April 24 which left at least 1,127 people, mostly apparel workers, dead, the BGMEA and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association asked their members to submit structural designs, layouts and soil test reports of the factories by May 30.
The BGMEA has till Thursday evening received more than 1,200 structural designs and soil test reports.
The BGMEA could extend the deadline as the majority of factory owners had sought extension to the deadline, BGMEA vice-president Shahidullah Azim told New Age on Thursday evening.
Although the number of factories enrolled with the BGMEA as members that are in operation is 3,500, the association said that it had received documents from at least 70 per cent of the factories. Shahidullah said that in most of the cases, a building housed three to five factories.
BKMEA vice-president Mohammed Hatem said that 550 factories out of its 1,000 members that are in operation had so far submitted structural designs and soil test reports to the association.
Immediately after the Rana Palza collapse, BGMEA leaders at a press conference said that all apparel factories would need to submit the documents by May 30 and warned of steps against factories failing to do so.
The BGMEA in advertisements published in newspapers on May 1 asked its members to have the condition of the factory buildings, detailing the size of slabs, columns, beams, the foundation, the number of iron rods and soil test reports prepared by certified engineering firms for submission by May 30 if they were not readily available.
The 2nd vice-president of the BGMEA, SM Mannan Kochi, told New Age that factory owners failing to submit the documents by the deadline would get time showing valid reasons for their failure.
He said that about 3,500 BGMEA members are in operation across the country and only 2,000 of them are engaged direct export. Others do subcontract jobs.
The BGMEA’s vice-president (finance) Reaz-Bin-Mahmood said that factories sharing buildings were having difficulties in submitting the documents as in most of the cases, building owners were not giving the factories the structural designs and soil test reports.
He said that some factory owners had submitted reports of soil test, carried out on their own expenses, but were facing trouble with structural designs as the process is complicated for factory owners.
After the deadline, the BGMEA will find out the real scenario of the factories that would not submit the reports. The association will then examine whether the designs and reports submitted were approved, Reaz said.
He said that after having the designs and soil test reports examined by experts, factories housed in vulnerable buildings will be asked to relocate the factories. In this case, factory owners will get time as it is not possible to move their units overnight.
Reaz feared that many factories sharing buildings could face closure. More than 60 per cent of the apparel factories are housed in shared buildings.

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