Bangladesh will begin inspections of its export-oriented garment factories on Friday to assess the buildings and how safe they are from fire and electrical accidents, an official said.
The Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology will inspect the factories using standards accepted by the government, factory owners and international buyers, Labor Ministry official Mikhail Shipar said Thursday.
More than 1,100 people were killed in April when a factory collapsed outside Dhaka, heightening concerns about poor working conditions and safety standards in Bangladesh's $20 billion garment industry. A series of factory fires have killed scores of others.
The industry employs about 4 million workers and accounts for 80 percent of the country's export income.
American and European buyers had earlier launched separate safety initiatives, while the government formed a committee to deal with safety concerns. The three sides decided to develop a common safety standard at a meeting earlier this month sponsored by the International Labor Organization.
Shipar said the agreement on a common standard was "a breakthrough which will help ensure the safety of all workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh."
Srinivas Reddy, the ILO country director, also hailed the agreement.
"This adoption of safety standards and harmonized guidelines is a significant development to improve safety and working conditions," Reddy said.
The government inspections will cover 1,200 factories. European buyers plan to inspect 1,600 factories, while retailers belonging to a North American alliance will inspect 600 factories from which they purchase garments.