Just after a fire killed at least 112 workers at a garment factory in the outskirts of Dhaka
, another 10-story factory caught fire Monday morning, and thousands took to the streets to protest the factories’ poor safety standards.
Though no one was killed in the second fire, during both fires the main doors to the factories were reported to be padlocked, blocking easy escape.
The protests put a spotlight on the poor working conditions, lack of fire escapes, and garment owner negligence that has wracked the world's second-largest garment-exporting country, where firms produce clothing for high-profile brands including Gap
, H&M, and Wal-Mart
The Factories Rules require specific provisions for escape in the event of an emergency for factory buildings housing explosive or highly flammable materials: "The means of escape shall include at least two separate and substantial stairways permanently constructed either inside or outside the building and which afford direct and unimpeded access to ground level."
Garment factories have had problems since the early 1990s, when the industry was developing. “Unfortunately, the owners pay no heed to ensure the minimum safety standards inside the buildings,” says Selim Newaj Bhuiyan, a former deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defense in Bangladesh.
That's because the rules are easy to get around, say observers.
Though international buyers often require factories meet the safety and requirements, often the auditors representing them are not well trained, says Mr. Selim,enticing owners to save money by only appearing to adhere to standards.