• Monday, Aug 15, 2022
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ED: Where’s the accountability?

  • Published at 08:07 am July 11th, 2021
shezan factory fire
Firefighters work at the site of a fire that broke out on at Hashem Foods Ltd factory at Rupganj, Narayanganj Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Can they really be called unexpected or accidental anymore?

How many more worker deaths will it take for factory owners to take fire safety seriously?

The recent fire on Thursday at a Shezan juice factory once again highlights the absolutely abysmal state of fire safety and other poor working conditions, as well as the utter disregard for low income workers’ lives present in industrial settings in Bangladesh.

Indeed, the fire may have started unexpectedly -- although, after more than 150 such fire incidents in the past 10 years, killing over 1,300 people, can they really be called unexpected or accidental anymore?

What is also not accidental is the very deliberate locking up of workers on the floors of the Shezan factory, lest they decide to slack off on company time. Combined with the storage of highly flammable chemicals in the factory, these cruel decisions ultimately led to the deaths of over 50 workers.

Bangladesh has seen tragedy after tragedy when it comes to poor fire safety, largely a direct product of unenforced safety standards and the impunity awarded to factory owners each time. The quick fix of awarding meagre compensation to families that have lost loved ones in the fire is not and has never been a sustainable or even particularly effective step against preventing future fires, and it becomes increasingly less meaningful an apology or recompense as the number of incidents and worker deaths continue to stack up unabated.

With no long-term measures to prevent more such deaths and fire incidents anywhere in sight, and no accountability for factory owners failing to implement the minimum safety standards in their factories, how do we expect to pay back the workers on whose hard and often poorly compensated labour our nation is built on?