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Factory safety probe launched

Safety experts hired by Western retailers will begin inspecting clothing factories in Bangladesh

Safety experts hired by Western retailers will begin inspecting clothing factories in Bangladesh today nearly a year after 1,129 garment workers died in a building collapse.

Dozens of fire officers and structural engineers will inspect more than 1,500 plants and recommend safety improvements.

The Western companies signed the legally binding agreement following accusations that they had been turning a blind eye to shoddy safety standards in a country where textile workers had been paid as little as £22 a month.

That basic wage has since risen by 77 per cent and garment bosses now claim they will lose their competitive edge if they have to pick up the tab for extensive safety improvements.

The inspectors said they would identify safety problems and set a deadline to implement any necessary measures.

"The timeline will depend on the nature of the problems," a spokesman said, adding the retailers would loan their contractors money to carry out upgrades if they could not afford the work.

But, despite the loan promise, some bosses are unhappy at having to carry out what they describe as "unnecessary and costly" improvements.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association claims the industry needs more time, especially if they have to shift factories out of residential buildings.

"Sprinklers, fireproof doors and new electric wiring raise costs of production to the extent that some factories won't be able to operate," complained the bosses' group's vice-president Shahidullah Azim.

But inspectors ruled out any suggestion of compromise on safety, saying all factories would have to install sprinklers and fire doors.

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