Electrical faults are the leading cause of fires in the Bangladesh garment industry. ILO with the support of the US Department of Labor has helped build capacity of fire inspectors to spot electrical risks.
Following her promotion to Warehouse Inspector in 2015, Shahjadi Sultana has checked some 500 establishments across Bangladesh for fire safety. However since taking part in specialized electrical safety training in late 2016 she is now able to assess important electrical systems with a more critical eye while carrying out inspections.
Organized by the International Labour Organization’s “Improving Fire and General Building Safety in Bangladesh ” project funded by the US Department of Labor, the training helped participants gain knowledge of electrical engineering considerations as they apply to safety. The need for the training is clear. According to Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Department (BFSCD) figures, approximately 75 percent of fires in the garment industry are caused by electrical faults.
For Shahjadi, gaining knowledge of electrical safety issues marked another step in her development as an inspector. After joining the Fire Service in 1992 as a telephone operator – at a time when women were not allowed to work in the field – the inspector has slowly worked her way up through the ranks.
Shahjadi is now one of five women working in fire service operations and inspection cells. She has been in the field for almost 14 years – 4 as a sub-officer and another 10 as the station officer at Chittagong’s Kalurghat – when she had to go out to numerous fires many of which were caused by electric short circuits. She now knows a lot more about reducing the danger of fires caused by electrical faults.