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Almost three years after H&M signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi workers who sew H&M’s clothing continue to risk their lives at work each day – in many cases lacking the most urgent and lifesaving fire safety measures.
This latest analysis of January 2016 follows up on a 2015 report, both of which show that the factories that H&M considers to be those “with the best performance in all areas” have failed to meet mandated time frames for repairs. The majority of all renovations still haven’t been completed despite lapsed deadlines. The outstanding renovations include the installation of fireproof doors, the removal of locking or sliding doors from fire exits, and the enclosure of stairwells – meaning that in many factories workers may be unable to safely exit a factory in an emergency.
Despite the efforts to improve factory safety since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, fires and explosions still plague the industry. The latest of these emergencies was a fire in February 2016 at Matrix Sweaters factory, an H&M supplier. Had the fire started just an hour later, there would have been around 6,000 workers inside the building, and even so, some workers still sustained injuries. Not all workers at H&M supplier factories have been so lucky. In 2010, 21 workers died in a fire at H&M supplier factory Garib & Garib, which lacked proper fire exits.
We may never be able to totally eliminate factory fires, but as one of the largest buyers of apparel from Bangladesh, H&M has a responsibility to do its part to ensure it’s supplier factories are safe.