A factory fire at the Tampaco Foils Ltd. Factory in Tongi, Bangladesh, has killed at least 23 people and injured dozens of others. The fire broke out at the packaging factory where around 100 people were working after an explosion occurred in the boiler room at the beginning of the day.
— Bangladesh News (@BDnews) September 11, 2016
BBC reports that as many as 70 people may have been injured in the factory fire that firefighters were struggling to get under control. Family members have been waiting outside the local hospital in hopes of finding out if their loved ones were among the injured or dead, while more than 20 fire trucks battled the blaze.
Tampaco Foils Ltd. packages food and tobacco products, and according to the chief building safety inspector, the factory was open around the clock with around 258 workers rotating in three eight-hour shifts. The factory opened in 1978 and packages products for companies such as Nestle, Nabisco Foods, and British American Tobacco.
Boiler fires are fairly common in Bangladesh, according to Dr. Mohammad Nurnabi, a professor of applied chemistry at the University of Dhaka. Benar News quotes Dr. Nurnabi as saying that one reason these fires happen so often is that untreated water is frequently used in the boilers and then they are not properly cleaned. Calcium then builds up in the boiler, causing hazardous leaks. In order to prevent this from happening, it is recommended that purified water be used in the boilers, but this is an added cost and is often overlooked to save money.
The Tampaco Foils factory fire is just the latest in a string of deadly workplace disasters in Bangladesh. As the Inquisitr reported in July, 41 people were indicted for murder for the 2013 collapse of a textile factory that killed 1,100 people, drawing attention to the increasingly unsafe working conditions in the country.
Manufacturing is a large contributor to the Bangladesh economy, and the low cost of production in the country entices many big-name companies to have their products made there. Bangladesh is the second-biggest clothing producer in the world, but keeping prices down means keeping costs down. That usually means that items that will help to ensure the safety of workers are the first to be cut.
After the 2013 factory collapse, engineers from Bangladesh’s largest university examined more than 100 factories in the country. Of the places they evaluated, the BBC reports that only six passed all of the safety tests.
During the fallout from the Rana Plaza disaster, the international community that relies so heavily on the clothing coming out of Bangladesh came together to try to enforce safer standards. The Guardian reports that three separate deals were struck to try to ensure the safety of all factory workers in the country. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, involving more than 100 clothing retailers including Marks & Spencer and Primark, signed a legally binding deal where they promised to purchase from the country for five years and to each contribute up to $500,000 a year to fund factory inspections and training to improve safety.
— GhoseSpot (@SandipGhose) September 10, 2016
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety includes 23 primarily North American brands who also signed on to a five-year deal that was seen as not as effective because the parties were not legally bound by the agreement. The alliance’s 620 factories include companies that produce clothing for Walmart and Gap, and they promised to pay up to $1 million each to support training for staff and management.
The government of Bangladesh also launched a $25.2 million plan to improve the working conditions of factory workers over a three-and-a-half-year period. $15 million of the money came from the United Kingdom and Dutch governments and there was also to be a focus on minimizing the threat of fire and building collapse in clothing factories. The organization was also dedicated to improving the rights of workers in the country. More than three years later, however, it appears that a lot more progress is still required.
[Photo by A. M. Ahad/AP Images]