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Bangladesh Made in


TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT


It’s almost a year since the world’s attention turned to the welfare of garment - workers in Bangladesh after the collapse of Rana


Plaza killed more than 1,100 people. London- based building services engineer Farah Naz is working with high street fashion brands to create a better working environment for these factory employees, as Liza Young reports


48 CIBSE Journal March 2014 B


efore 24 April 2013, few people in the West probably gave much thought to the workers who make the bargain-price clothes for sale


in many high street stores. But then the eight-storey Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,100 people. It took one of the world’s worst industrial disasters for people to sit up and take note of the conditions that these workers endure to earn their daily wage. Most factory employees in Bangladesh


work 12-hour shifts in temperatures that can reach as high as 40°C. Offi cially, they aren’t permitted to work more than 12 hours a day, six days a week ; unoffi cially, the y can be working for between 12 and 24 hours a day. All for about £8 a month (roughly 26p per day) – or three cups of Starbucks coffee. Why? Because we all love a bargain


and high street brands are attracted by the


low costs. Bangladesh is now the second - largest exporter of cheap clothes made for Western markets after China. The solution to improving life for garment workers is not simply to shut down their workplaces, says Farah Naz, senior engineer at Ramboll, who is working with fashion brands to establish guidelines for factory building in Bangladesh. ‘Garment factories are the lifeline of the


country and a very important part of the Bangladeshi economy,’ she says. ‘Many people lose their land because of


river fl ooding and the only option they have for a better lifestyle is to work in a factory. Socially, that gives women freedom to earn money and give back to their families – to raise their children and not rely on their husband or family to support them.’ Garment factories have been operating in Bangladesh since the 1970s, and the fi rst


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