Little training, but large impact

Over 2,000 garment workers-officials received fire safety and earthquake preparedness training from Proyash, increased workplace safety

After two consecutive catastrophes in garments sector of Bangladesh — fire at Tazreen Fashions in 2012 and Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 — experts observed that the causalities could be reduced if the workers and the factory authorities were aware enough.

The disasters have awakened the authorities concerned to think about safety of workers and workplaces. Fire safety, earthquake preparedness, risk reduction and workplace safety became major concern afterwards.

Thinking of the concern, Save the Children took an exceptional initiative of creating awareness, by which the garment workers and officials will gain knowledge. At the same time, they will also be trained to take immediate actions if any disaster takes place.

In doing so, the international non-governmental organization so far provided fire safety and earthquake preparedness training among more than 2,000 workers and officials of eight garments factories in Mirpur, Savar and Narayanganj.

Save the Children arranged the two-day long training through its project titled Proyash in association with Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (BFSCD).

Proyash, an urban risk reduction project, was implemented by Social and Economic Enhancement Program (SEEP) and funded by C&A Foundation. The 27-month project started from September 2015.

The training helped the garment workers to be confident in taking instant actions, and to know about their responsibilities during and after the disasters and the necessity of cooperation and knowledge sharing.

It also helped them to be aware of their safety rights and to raise voice against the safety lacks of the factories they work, said the workers.

“I didn’t know how to extinguish fire and what fire extinguisher is? But, I came to know lots of things after the training,” said Salma Begum, a sewing machine operator of Evince Garments Limited in Dhaka’s Mirpur area.

“The training helped us to be enough confident to face and extinguish small fire incidents, and also made us aware of taking necessary steps for bigger ones,” said Salma, who took the two-day long training along with her colleagues.

“From now on, we will be able to protect ourselves and our other colleagues from disaster by following pre-preparedness measures that we have learned,” she said. “Even, now we can freely talk to our factory authorities about the safety glitches,” she added.

The training initiative helped both the workers and the factory authorities as it played an important rote to enhanced safety of the factories. Besides, it helped the authorities to take safety measures and learn many basics of disaster.

SM Khalid Mahmud, a partner of Knit Bangla Garments in Narayanganj, said the workers and the officials of his factory, including him, gathered many basic knowledge of fire and its control that they did not know before.

“We were aware of safety issues, but we won’t be able to understand the necessity of taking appropriate measures if Proyash would not come to us,” said Khalid, also the managing director of the garments.

“The training ensued personal safety of the workers. At the same time, it also ensured safety of the factory,” he added.
About the training, the safety official of Evince Garments Limited Syed Haider Zaman said about 40 workers and officials of the factory received the training at a time.

It taught them the causes of fire and its prevention and control, emergency evacuation, and first aid, he said.
“The training was hands-on as the BFSCD officials directly conducted it. That is why, the training helped them to learn well,” said Haider, also an administrative officer of the factory.

“I congratulate the Proyash authority for taking such effective initiative that helped many garment factories like us,” he said.
Syed Matiul Ahsan, deputy director (disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation) of Save the Children in Bangladesh, said the initiative was taken to ensure workplace safety of the garment workers as many factories do not follow proper safety measures.

Proyash made a start to brighten the image of Bangladesh to the world, now the authorities of the garment factories have to continue the safety initiative, he said.

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