“Extremely poor quality” construction materials and other irregularities are to blame for the April factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people.
The collapse has been called the worst industrial disaster in the country’s history.
A government committee is recommending life in jail for building owner Sohel Rana and owners of the garment factories in Rana Plaza if they are found guilty of violating building codes, the Associated Press reports.
The Rana Plaza building contained garment factories as well as some other businesses. Workers noticed cracks in the building the day before it collapsed. Employees of some other businesses in Rana Plaza did not report to work the next day, but garment workers were forced to report to their jobs despite the safety concerns.
A report from the government investigation details numerous problems with the building:
- Rana added two floors to the six-story building illegally so he could rent the space to garment factories.
- The building wasn’t constructed for industrial use and the heavy garment factory machinery contributed to the building collapse.
- The materials used in the building — such as the iron rods and cement — were of “extremely poor quality.”
- Part of the land the building was on top of used to be a body of water that was filled with garbage, and it was not fit for a multi-story building.
Bangladesh has some of the world’s lowest wages for garment workers. Many popular Western brands, including H&M and Walmart, produce merchandise there. The garment industry in Bangladesh is worth about $20 billion.
The workers who staff these factories are often subjected to long hours and poor working conditions. Bangladesh garment factory workers are currently paid as little as $38 per month, though the government recently announced a plan to raise the minimum wage for these workers.
Some brands that source their merchandise from these factories, including H&M and Inditex (owner of fast-fashion giant Zara), have signed on to a safety accord that holds them legally accountable for improving conditions. Ambercromie & Fitch and PVH Corp., which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, are the only major U.S. brands that have agreed to the accord.