DHAKA: Safety experts hired by Western retailers on Wednesday launched mass inspections of Bangladesh clothing factories, 10 months after 1,135 garment workers died in a building collapse.

“The inspections have begun,” said Brad Loewen, who is overseeing the scrutiny of more than 1,500 plants on behalf of top retailers such as H&M and Benetton.

Dozens of fire officers and structural engineers are expected to inspect the plants and then recommend safety improvements in an exercise set to last until September.

Roy Ramesh, an international labour activist involved in the inspections, said the first day went well, although he declined to give details of what inspectors found at the factories.

Local media reported that garment manufacturers were unhappy at some of the costly safety improvements recommended by the inspectors including sprinklers, fire doors and thicker wiring systems.

Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest clothing manufacturer and the sector is the mainstay of the impoverished South Asian nation’s economy.

But it has a woeful safety track record, highlighted in 2012 by a fire at a factory outside Dhaka in which 111 workers were killed. Many were unable to escape due to a lack of proper fire exits.

In April 2013, 1,135 people were killed when the nine-storey Rana Plaza complex collapsed on the outskirts of the capital in Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial disaster.

Experts say the complex had been constructed with sub-standard materials and without proper site surveys. Bosses had also set up huge generators on upper floors, which triggered the collapse when they all automatically clicked on following a power cut.Spanish fashion chain Mango, Britain’s Primark, Italy’s Benetton, Sweden’s H&M and the sports brand Adidas were among Western brands to sign up to an accord in the aftermath of the disaster, in which they agreed to bankroll the safety inspections and lend the money for upgrades.—AFP