Rana Plaza: Workplace Safety in Bangladesh Harvard Case Solution & Analysis


Rana Plaza, the biggest hub for garment factories in Bangladesh has been collapsed despite of the warnings issued by an engineer a day earlier, by viewing the cracks on its walls. Many larger retailers are in a state of paradox because their reputation and goodwill of the company is at stake. Many companies have an option to flee to other low labor cost countries and start their production, while other companies have an option to stay at the same market and manage things right from the start.


Why did the tragedy occur

The tragedy of collapsing of Rana Plaza occurred due to the poor construction materials used in its construction. The building was constructed upon a pond, which made a weaker base of the building, while some of the floors of the building was not maintained by supporting walls. Cracks on the walls were also revealed one day earlier before the incident by the workers at Rana Plaza and the engineer had termed the building as unsafe. However, after inspection the government official overruled the decision as safe. After the building collapse, the debris revealed that a thin metal rod was used in the construction material to hold stable a 9 floor building. As a result, 1,100 people died in the incident.

Who was responsible

A single entity could not be held responsible for the tragedy because the responsibilities provided to each entity were not fully implied. The Bangladesh government, MNC’s, factory owners, the local bodies and entities, which were responsible for inspecting safety compliance of garment industries were all responsible for the incident to happen. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), a local body responsible for ensuring safety compliance was unsure in enforcing the particular compliance. Even the four garment factories owned by the president of BGMEA violated many safety regulations. The government was responsible because for the sake of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country, the government suppressed the activities of many NGO’s which were raised voices against safety measures and overall environment of the factories. It was also the responsibility of MNC’s to monitor the safety regulations implied by their suppliers because they are the external stakeholders. The goodwill of the company is attached to the performance of its suppliers.

What needs to be done for factory workers

Unions shall be developed for workers in each factory so that they could represent them and their voices could be heard. Therefore, restrictions shall be evaded for the forming of unions. If the unions would have been formed in Rana Plaza then they would not have allowed the workers to enter the building despite of cracks. Awareness campaigns and programs shall be designed for union members and as well as general workers about their rights, safety regulations, and healthy work environments. The workers shall be well aware of the tactics of exiting the building during collapse, fire, electrical incidents.

How can Consumers, Owners, Retailers, Govt, NGO’s can help

Bangladesh government can enforce strict regulations on the factory owners in carrying out the building codes and shall also imply regulations on local bodies to inspect every factory and to ensure the safety and health regulations of the workers. Factory owners must abide by the building codes and shall provide every equipment and enforcement necessary in avoiding any dangerous event. The retailers and the NGO’s must spread awareness amongst workers about their rights of safety. Suppliers are the stakeholders of MNC’s and it is their ethical rights in maintaining the required quality standards and a healthy work environment for their workers. Consumers could help workers through pressurizing the MNC’s to help workers and eradicate the poor working environment. They could boycott consuming their products if the same working environment prevails.

Can BFSA and ABWS solve problems?

Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord (BFSA) and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (ABWS) can help in solving problems for the garment industries. BFSA pact was signed between retailers and the two labor unions. The pact can help solve problems through its features which include the training programs for fire and building safety shall be conducted by trade unions, whereas, every inspection and safety violation shall be available on the internet for end consumers. ABWS is the pact between the top retail groups which focused similar to BFSA with an additional point on the funding of $1 billion per retailer for industrial repairs which should be provided to the industries. However, the implementation of these standards will only apply with the consent and approval of the factory owner....................

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