Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - Page 15 News List

One in six Bangladeshi factories unsafe: Wal-Mart

The Guardian, LONDON

One in six clothing factories used by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc in Bangladesh failed to meet basic standards of structural, fire or electrical safety, the US retailer has found.

Independent inspections for the company found that 32 of its 200 factories required urgent work to fix serious failings, including one factory that was so unsafe it had to be shut down and another with an illegal eighth floor containing the staff canteen.

Most of those factories have since carried out remedial work, but production is still temporarily halted at two factories, which have failed to make the improvements required for basic safety since the inspections started in May.

The inspections were carried out after the Rana Plaza disaster in April, when more than 1,100 workers died and many more were injured after a factory collapsed.

The problems emerged as Wal-Mart published a list of 75 of the 200 factories that had been inspected and rated on electrical and building safety, from A, which would be a model factory, to D, the worst level.

The paperwork did not give details of the problems at each factory, but Jay Jorgensen, the company’s global compliance officer, said the worst problems included the factory with an additional floor and another with an extra building that it did not have paperwork for.

Walmart had promised to publish a list of the factories it had inspected in June, but Jorgensen said the process had been delayed by civil unrest and difficulties in sourcing sufficient new materials, such as fire doors.

Jorgensen said Wal-Mart had published the list to help other companies sourcing in the country, including the 100-plus signatories to an international factory improvement deal, the accord on fire and building safety in Bangladesh, which Wal-Mart has refused to sign up to.

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