At least 23 were killed and dozens more were injured in a fast-moving, massive fire at the Tampaco Foils Ltd. factory in Tonga, near the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka. According to news reports, workers were preparing to swap shifts when an explosion occurred in the boiler room of the five-story building and quickly spread due to chemicals being stored at the facility. Boiler room fire incidents such as these are addressed in detail in NFPA 85: Boiler and Combustion Systems Hazards Code.
The blaze at the food and cigarette packaging factory is the worst industrial accident in the country since 2013 when the Rana Plaza building collapsed and killed more than 1,100 people. There were approximately 100 people in the building on Saturday morning when the explosion occurred at the Tampaco site that packages goods for global brands including British American Tobacco and Nestle.
Inexpensive manufacturing is a major industry in Bangladesh and a significant component of the country's economy. Regarded as one of the world's leading garment exporters, the region continues to struggle with building and fire safety issues.
In response to persistent large scale tragedies, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety (the Alliance), a coalition of 28 American and Canadian retailers, was formed. Months after the Rana Plaza collapse, the Alliance launched a five-year effort to inspect and oversee safety remediation of approximately 650 garment factories in Bangladesh that serve the Gap, Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, and others. The factories aligned with the Alliance employ about 1.2 million people - mostly women.
NFPA and the University of Maryland were invited by the Alliance to provide an independent review of their factory upgrade program designed to improve worker safety. In March of this year, NFPA released the Bangladesh Ready-Made Garment (RMG) Industry High-Level Assessment Report. The document looks at Bangladesh’s fire and building safety standards, protocols, inspection procedures and training programs for ready-made garment (RMG) factories, and provides short- and long-term recommendations to improve fire and life safety at these facilities.