Fire Safety in Pakistan and Worldwide

Devastating tragedies in South Asian factories underscore the need for improved awareness and respect for workers’ health and safety, a critical focal point in the SA8000 system revision.

May 3, 2013

In the past six months, the world has witnessed a series of devastating factory tragedies in the South Asian garment sector – from fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh to the more recent Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. These events represent the fact that worldwide, workers’ lives are at risk everyday as a result of poor infrastructure and/or their employer’s lack of awareness and respect for health and safety procedures.

Following the shocking fire at Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan, Social Accountability International (SAI) and Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) in their respective roles each underwent a deep review of the entire SA8000 system to identify and determine necessary revisions and improvements.

A number of changes have been made to the SA8000 system. These include a mandatory training for all SA8000 and BSCI auditors on fire safety (announced on February 26, 2013). Already, nearly 3,000 individuals have participated.  

  • SAI developed and delivered the course, and;
  • SAAS made it mandatory for all auditors at accredited certification bodies (CBs).

Additional changes to the SA8000 system were announced in SAI’s March 11 news release: Fire Safety a Key Focus in SA8000 Revision.

The changes detailed in the March 11 announcement were derived from both SAI and SAAS’s reviews and SAAS’s investigation of the fire, as well as of the use of SA8000 in Pakistan. The changes and updates to the SA8000 system to clarify compliance with its existing ‘health and safety’ and ‘management systems’ elements, as well as procedural changes, are outlined in SAI’s latest report Fire Safety in Pakistan and Worldwide, published on May 3, 2013.

The process behind these changes as a result of the review and investigation process is detailed in the Fire Safety in Pakistan and Worldwide – Report Addendum:  

  • SAAS: It details the investigations undertaken by SAAS: 1) outside fire safety and emergency response experts from the Turkish NGO AKUT Search & Rescue, and 2) by the two accredited certification bodies still accredited to accord certification to SA8000 in Pakistan. Both undertook to assess the quality of certification against new fire safety criteria.
  • SAI: Fire safety will be a key consideration in the upcoming revision of the SA8000® Standard and guidance system as pertains to SA8000’s third element, ‘Health and Safety,’ and its ninth element, ‘Management Systems.’

Overall, the report and report addendum detail both SAI and SAAS’s processes to determine root causes and devise system changes that may lessen the possibilities of fatalities and injuries from industrial fires and the chances of recurrence of a fatal fire at any certified industrial site, as well as to promote best practices in emergency procedures as devised by AKUT Search and Rescue.

SAI’s mission is to promote workers’ rights in a world often indifferent to them. In the broader context, SAI is one voice and tool-provider in a large movement to improve the lives of workers around the world. For all participants in this vital movement, it is critical that we all leverage our activities and platforms to contribute to this greater movement to improve the lives of workers around the world.