Locked fire exits at garment factories create death traps for Bangladesh’s garment workers (see my post on KTS). But faulty and non-functional fire alarms can be just as deadly. Late monday night a burst light bulb set off the alarm at Sayem Fashions, Gazipur. About two thousand workers tried to exist the 7-storey building and, in the ensuing stampede, three women died and thirty got injured.

So what do you do to lessen the risks at these factories where regulations concerning fire exits are constantly ignored and flouted. Well the Bangladesh Garment Makers and Exporters Association’s latest idea is this: they are going to shoot video footage of dodgy health and safety of conditions in factories in order to take punitive action. Their prime concern, quite rightly, is locked exits. But get this: if you are found to have locked exits you get fined 10,000 takas for your first offence. That is less than a hundred pounds for an offence which could potentially claim scores of lives. A pittance! You can just imagine the factory owners trembling at the prospect of paying that amount can’t you? Mind you, these owners are so staggeringly stingy they don’t even employ people to clean the workers’ toilets properly and regularly for what would only be a few takas a day. So 10,000 takas rising to 50,000 for the second offence and expulsion from the association for the third could make them think twice….Well, we wait to see the fines applied and the owners named and shamed from next week.

All over Dhaka the most dilapidated buildings house these garment factories. They are obvious and in your face. It is surreal that video footage is thought to be required to take action against such conditions. But there you are. In a strange way, if these videos ever become public property they will be a powerful indictment of the industry’s working conditions and of the cruel negligence and insensitivity of the owners, the industry body, the government, the foreign buyers and, yes, consumers.