Occupational Health & Safety

Locked Exits Contributed to Bangladesh Factory Fire's Death Toll

Exit doors of the eight-story building were locked, and its owner claims he was never advised to install emergency exits.

The fire that killed 112 people last week inside a warehouse in Bangladesh filled with apparel for companies including Wal-Mart, Sears, and Disney was so deadly because the exit doors were locked. The owner of the building has said he was not even aware that he needed to have an emergency exit sign.

"It was my fault. But nobody told me that there was no emergency exit, which could be made accessible from outside," Delwar Hossain told The Daily Star newspaper. "Nobody even advised me to install one like that, apart from the existing ones."

The factory was owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd. and made clothing for many brands. More than 1,400 workers were trapped in the eight-story building when the fire broke out. Local police are investigating the cause of the fire and whether it could have prevented. Three managers are being investigated on allegations of negligence.

Wal-Mart representatives said the company received notification that the factory was a high safety risk and had ceased using Tazreen to manufacture, but a supplier continued to use the factory without authorization. On Dec. 4, Wal-Mart ceased business with the factory completely.

More than 300 people in Bangladesh have been killed in similar clothing factory fires during the past six years.

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