Three-fifths of Bangladesh’s garment factories are vulnerable to collapse, The Guardian reports. That figure comes from a survey by a team of engineers from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology who are conducting a visual survey of buildings, soil tests, and original plans. The team has thus far examined just a sixth of the 600 buildings housing more than 3,000 factories.
Although 60 percent of the buildings that the team has looked at are vulnerable, “This doesn’t mean they will collapse in the next week or month,” Professor Mehedi Andsary, who leads the team, told The Guardian, “but to leave them unchanged would be irresponsible.”
The factory collapse that killed 1,127 people in the country in April has been officially attributed to “extremely” poor quality building materials and violations of building regulations. Workers spotted cracks in the building in the days before the collapse but were still told to go in for work. Since that tragedy, another factory that makes clothing for U.S. retailers in Gazipur has shown cracks in the walls but is still operating.
The Guardian visited another factory recently with 400 workers in it and found other concerning working conditions, including an obstructed stairwell, barred windows, and the removal of an external fire exit.
The cost of upgrading Bangladesh’s garment factories by renovating buildings, installing safety equipment, and other measures would increase the price of each garment by just 10 cents. At least eight major retailers have signed a binding agreement to upgrade factories in the country, while Walmart and Gap, which have large operations in the country, have refused to sign on. The companies are instead promoting their own non-binding plan.