Dhaka Building Collapse: H&M Commits To Safety Plan In Bangladesh

High street clothing retailer H&M today committed to a fire and safety plan in Bangladesh aimed at preventing any repeats of the disastrous building collapse that left more than 1,000 workers dead.

In a statement, the company, which has more than 200 stores in the UK, said it was publicly committing to supporting the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi army doctors and other officers sit with Reshma Begum, the 19-year-old seamstress who spent 17 days trapped in the rubble of the building

The Accord, designed for a five-year period, is aimed at improving fire and building safety in the garment industry in Bangladesh to avoid a repeat of the recent tragedy.

The Rana Plaza building collapse is the latest in a series of deadly incidents in the country, whose garment industry supplies much of the western world.

In its statement today, H&M said the commitment to the Accord was an extra step for its sustainability programme.

Head of sustainability Helena Helmersson said: "Fire and building safety are extremely important issues for us and we put a lot of effort and resources within this area.

"H&M has for many years taken the lead to improve and secure the safety of the workers in the garment industry. With this commitment we can now influence even more in this issue.

"We hope for a broad coalition of signatures in order for the agreement to work effectively on ground."

The firm said it was playing an active role in improving fire safety in Bangladeshi garment factories, including introducing in 2011 an education to increase fire safety awareness among suppliers and their employees.

It also requires that all the supplier factories conduct electrical assessments in their factories and has offered to share these costs with them, the firm said.

"Our strong presence in Bangladesh gives us the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and contribute to the community's development," Ms Helmersson added.

"By being on site, put demands on manufacturers and work for continuous improvements, we can slowly but surely contribute to lasting changes."

H&M's move was today welcomed by campaign group Avaaz, which has been calling on leading retailers to join the agreement to clean up what it calls Bangladesh's "death shops".

Today, it said it is now focusing its efforts on other companies to encourage them to sign up by the deadline on Wednesday.

Campaign director Alex Wilks said: "H&M's announcement is great news for millions of workers in Bangladesh.

"Consumers should reward H&M's leadership and consider the ethics of shopping at other major high street brands who have still to sign this strong agreement that will make Bangladesh's factories safe."

Reshma Begum

Woman found alive in Bangladesh rubble 17 days after collapse

Bangladesh Factory Collapse (UPDATED)