Brigadier General (retd) Abu Nayeem Md Shahidullah, former Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defense, has blamed "system failure" for the death of 52 workers in a fire at Sajeeb Group's factory in Narayanganj.
Shahidullah, also a member of the National Industrial Health and Safety Council, further said the system failure occurred at the implementation level.
He suggested that alongside the owners, ones who were responsible for the safety of the workers of the company be brought to justice and given capital punishment.
"We have many good laws, but there is a lack of proper implementation of those," he told The Business Standard on Sunday.
He said such a big incident happened because the system failed. "After the Tazreen incident, we were vocal so that exits of factories are not locked. But even after these long years, we've seen the lock is there."
"The rule is that each factory will have a safety committee with equal participation of workers and owners' representatives. They need to be trained to come out safely in case of fire. There will be regular fire drills.
"Was there a safety committee at all? It is the responsibility of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) to look into this."
He said the credit for the compliance that has been created in the garment sector goes to the buyers.
"They hired professionals from outside to inspect factories. Only blaming the manpower crisis outside the RMG sector will not solve the problem. Every year there will be some new recruitment, but the crisis will be a crisis."
To resolve this problem, he suggested inspecting the factories through third parties.
Recommending that the authorities run a quick crash programme for this purpose, he said the campaign should include issues like having realistic fire drills, keeping the roof open, having an evacuation plan in case of fire.
Industry owners are powerful people, but they are not more powerful than the government, he mentioned.
Urging the ministers concerned to work concertedly to ensure capital punishment for the culprits although they are influential, he said they should be accountable to the people.
He further said that in addition to the owners, those who have given trade licenses or have shown laxity in the implementation of the law should also be punished.
There is no scope for serving verbal notice, he said.
He, however, mentioned that there was only a single instance of punishment of such guilty officials in the past. One official was punished over the Rana Plaza incident, he said.
He said the government is now investigating such incidents and publishing investigation reports as well. But in order to avoid such a situation in the future, it is necessary to specifically mention in the reports the weaknesses of each party concerned."