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Bangladesh: 11 workers killed and over 50 injured in garment factory blast

4 July, 2017A boiler explosion at a Bangladeshi garment factory on 3 July 2017 has killed 11 workers and injured at least 50 people. The death toll could rise as many of those caught in the blast are in a critical condition in hospital. 

The incident took place at the Multifabs Limited garment factory in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka at about 7.30pm. At the time of the explosion, workers at the dyeing section were reportedly engaged in maintenance work on the boiler. The impact was so severe that a section of the four-storey factory building was also damaged.

In a statement released today, IndustriALL Global Union, which represents trade union affiliates in the Bangladeshi garment industry, expressed heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, as well as sympathy for the many people injured in the blast.

Multifabs Limited, which supplies knitted apparel to a variety of Western brands and retailers, is covered under the Bangladesh Accord on fire and building safety and has been inspected by Accord engineers.  As a consequence, the factory installed fire separation from the boiler room and carried out other fire and structural safety renovations.  However, the Accord does not cover boiler inspections, which are monitored by the Bangladesh government.

IndustriALL Global Union also said:

“There is still an enormous amount of work to be done to improve safety in the Bangaldeshi garment industry. This latest tragedy underlines the need for the work by the Bangladesh Accord to continue, and union signatories to the Accord will demand that it be expanded to include boiler safety as soon as possible.” 

Fortunately at the time of the accident, most of the company’s workforce of around 3,500 people were on Eid vacation and not due to resume work until 4 July. According to reports, the exploded boiler’s validity had expired on 24 June and it was not renewed. The district administration has formed an eight-member investigation committee to probe the incident.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL’s General Secretary, said:

“We are pained at the tragic loss of life caused by the explosion at the Multifabs garment factory. All those injured in the blast must be given suitable medical treatment, while appropriate compensation must be provided to the victims and the dependents of those killed. 

“The government and employers must strengthen cooperation with trade unions and the Accord to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh, which must now include boiler inspections.”

Many of the injured are receiving treatment at the Dhaka Medical College hospital and the Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmad Medical College Hospital.

On 29 June, a new 2018 Accord was launched extending the safety programme, due to expire in May 2018, until 2021. The new Accord includes additional commitments to the right of workers to organize and join a union in order to protect their own safety. The Multifabs factory was non-unionized. Sanches said:

“The new Bangladesh Accord puts greater emphasis on workers’ rights to freedom of association, recognizing that trade unions have a vital role in improving workplace safety. Workers are the eyes and ears of a factory and with the backing of a union they are more empowered to demand safe conditions and refuse dangerous work.”

Multifabs Limited is listed by the Bangladesh Accord as actively supplying the following signatories: Lindex, ALDI North, ALDI South, Dansk Supermarked A/S, Shop Direct, Wuensche Group, Teddy Spa, and Gekås Ullared AB.

Multifabs management has closed the factory for an indefinite period. A further 10 garments factories in the area have closed today following the incident.