Gap to implement fire safety plans in Bangladesh

By Nivedita Bhattacharjee

Oct 2 (Reuters) - Nearly two years after a factory fire at one of its suppliers in Bangladesh killed 29 people and injured more than 100 others, Gap Inc has promised to implement new safety standards starting next month.

The company, which owns the Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands, said it would hire a fire safety inspector, and loan vendors up to $20 million for safety improvements, and provide up to $2 million in compensation to workers displaced while factories are being brought up to safety standards.

The fatal Dec. 14, 2010 inferno consumed the Hameem Group's That's It Sportswear factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh that served as a supplier to Gap and several other major apparel brands.

"The fire called our attention to the need to understand what is causing these issues and how to work towards bettering the situation," Bobbi Silten, senior vice president of Global Responsibility for Gap said.

Silten said the company had initially discussed similar plans with retailers that have manufacturing units in Bangladesh, but the talks were taking too long.

Its plans were finalized after discussions with the Bangladeshi government, the International Labor Organisation, vendors and workers.

"We will definitely reach out to other brands as the initiative rolls out. At this point sitting down at a table ... will not make the plan immediately effective and we need to be able to act," Silten said.

Gap's Silten said the new measures will be in force at Gap's high volume factories by November, and will affect about 100,000 workers.

"Once we get the program running we'll keep moving through," Silten said, when asked if the company plans to implement these measures in its other manufacturing hubs such as China and Vietnam.

(Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)


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