July 30 - Confusion remains in garment factory inspections in the wake of a deadly building collapse earlier this year. Julie Noce reports.
Three months after more than 1100 people were killed in a factory collapse in Bangladesh, a review of the country's building inspection process presents a grim reality. A Reuters special report has found major discrepancies in the handful of agencies qualified to inspect the countries some 5300 factories. During a surprise safety check at Miami Garments several violations were uncovered. First, the factory is housed in a residential building. Inspectors noted this single narrow exit staircase, weak floors and columns and only one fire extinguisher in the entire building. But the inspector's assessment? That the building is relatively compliant with standards. Alternatively, some factories are getting checked up to six times by various agencies. This factory has passed a half dozen inspections including one performed for our crew that involved a three hour check for wall cracks by a four person inspection team. In the aftermath of the deadly Rana Plaza collapse, the European Union and the U.S. have both threatened punitive measures if safety conditions did not improve. Still the country's garment exports rose 16 percent last month proving that demand has not waned regardless of standards.