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Lessons from Factory Collapse in Bangladesh

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Lessons from Factory Collapse in Bangladesh

Lessons from Bangladesh Factory Collapse

First there were cracks,
Everyone was worried
Owner said all is fine
The banks and some shops shut their doors
The garment makers on the upper floor
The continued work
Then, it all happened

Once again, a classic case of negligence
Oversight and procrastination
How many incidents does it take
For humans to learn
All civilization is guilty
Garment makers, European brands
Anyone who dresses up is culpable

Authorities in Bangladesh arrested Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the factory building that collapsed 24 April with 657 reported dead and hundreds more wounded. It is a sheer case of neglect at multiple levels. Its a shame for our “so called modern civilization!” A culture of complacency pervaded the system. In the meantime, the world turned a blind eye against the exploitative practices of powerful middlemen and European brand manufactures who failed to insist on accountability.

Lesson #1: Enforcement is non-negotiable
Much as been written about the low standards in Bangladesh and the lack of enforcement in the building codes and construction sector. As a result of the culture of laisser-faire, building and factories sprang up in areas and places where they were not stable enough. Without proper enforcement of building codes, such accidents were basically waiting to happen.

Lesson #2. Two parts to a problem – local and foreign
It is not enough to arrest the property owner, Mr Rana while he was trying to flee. What about systems that enabled him to be there and be negligent? There were over 3000 people in that building. By this I mean other sweat shop owners, inspectors and insurance companies, government agents who equally abdicated their public safety roles. Based on familiar literature from that region and the comments from well informed people, the situation in Dhaka was untenable. It is still untenable! it would be misleading to make only one rest or only Rana, his wife and one other person.

Lesson #3: Liability of public officials
I want to see more public officials arrested. I want to see other public officials held accountable. alleged culpability of the building owner is a short circuit approach. Where has the Minister of Local Government been until this disaster struck? There have to be other officials that condoned the sprouting of sub standard factories. Was 3,000 the permitted occupancy of the building? The factory authorities and regulators are equally culpable and they must be part of the long term solution, else it will be mere window dressing.The owner did not operate in isolation.
Addidas, the famous German manufacturer has now set up a hotline number for people to call and report of any other similar cases of neglect or at-risk buildings. Am sure there will be many of them.