Rana Plaza Building Collapse

April 24, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh

One of the world's deadliest garment industry accidents

By: Brianna Winslow

What was the sequence of events that lead up to the disaster?

On Tuesday, April 23rd the day before the Rana Plaza building collapse, workers were asked to leave their factories by management after cracks appeared in pillars, floors and walls. On a local TV channel the appearance of cracks were reported, however; Sohel Rana the owner of the Rana Plaza stated that the engineer had pronounced the structure safe and that workers should return to work the following day. The next day, April 24th 2013 was the day disaster hit Rana Plaza. Workers returned for the 8:00 A.M. shift just like any normal day. The day did not remain as routinized as normal. Around 9:00 A.M. there was a sudden jolt and the ground began to shake like a earthquake. There was a thud and within two minutes the eight story building was collapsed.

Facts and Figures

On May 13th, 2014 rescue operations ended for the Rana Plaza building collapse. The final death toll was 1,130 with approximately 2,500 injured people rescued from inside the building. 291 bodies remained without identification and 300 people were missing. After the disaster of Rana Plaza, international organizations and trade unions pledged a fund of $40 million to aid those affected. The trust fund is ran by the International Labor Organization and payments from the trust fund are released to the victims by a claim process. The fund has only been able to raise one third of that amount according to a statement by global trade unions Industrial and UNI along with the labor rights network Clean Clothes campaign as of April 2014. Only half of the 29 global brands and retailers that sourced garments from the factories in Rana Plaza have contributed thus far. ActionAid's Kabir says, "There has been haphazard financial aid -- some coming from employers, some from the prime minister's fund. There is no coordination." She goes on to say only $3 million of the $16 million set aside in the prime minister's fund had been distributed, as of March 2014. One huge contributor offering long-term compensation amounting to $9 million for the workers employed in factories producing garments for the company is British fashion chain Primark. Overall, more contributions and donations are needed to help compensate victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse.

What was to blame?

There are a number of factors to consider for the blame of the Rana Plaza building collapse. Some of the factors that the committee appointed by Bangladesh's government concluded that lead to the collapse were that the swampy ground the Rana Plaza was built on, the poor quality construction materials used, and the massive, vibrating equipment operating when the eight story building collapsed. Many people wonder how could an unsafe structure ever be built, but in Bangladesh it is a common occurrence seen. With a combination of corruption and bribery, lack of regulation and capitalist greed it is too easy to construct buildings using poor architecture with cheap material and inappropriate sites. Rana had gained permission in 2008 for a five story structure. This construction was not supervised by architects or engineers to assess its quality. Even worse, 60% of the building was constructed on the site of the acquired pond which had been filled in which affected the structure from the start. In 2010, Rana added three more floors to the Rana Plaza but with no planning permission or supporting walls. Workers reported that the building would sometimes shudder and jolt when generators ran. When the building collapsed Rana was having a ninth floor added! Just the day before the collapse the appearance of cracks were reported on a local TV channel and the owner Sohel Rana later stated that an engineer pronounced the structure was safe and that workers should return to work the following day. Many people blame the owner for the collapse of Rana Plaza and the countless injuries and victims who lost their lives, but the corruption and lack of regulation from the government also contributes to the blame because a structure like this should have never been built how it was.

What was the physics behind the failure?

The physics behind the failure of the Rana Plaza building collapse was caused by a couple of things. The first problem that relates to physics is that the building was not built for industrial use, and the weight of the heavy garment factory machinery and their vibrations contributed to the building collapse. The weight put too much stress on the building that was not on good, stable foundation. Furthermore, extremely poor quality iron rods and cement were used. Poor iron rods and cement could not support the structure. Lastly, Rana added three more floors to the Rana Plaza without planning permission or supporting walls. Without the supporting walls the building wasn't going to have the support it requires. Overall, the building collapsed due to metal fatigue and a great deal of stress that the buildings structure could not handle. That is why the building began to crack.  

New regulations, designs, policies, etc. that have come about because of the disaster?

Since the collapse of Rana Plaza, there has been new safety rules and regulations that are coming into play. As of last year, there were less than 200 qualified inspectors and officials present in Bangladesh. It will take an estimated five years to check working and safety conditions in all factories. That is why the government issued orders to increase the number of labor and factory inspectors to 575! There has also been two initiatives introduced last year to improve conditions for employees in the $20 billion dollar garments industry in Bangladesh. First, the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety is legally mandating signatory companies to undertake inspections of garment factories as well as training of workers. 150 companies have signed the accord.The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is a voluntary, industry-sponsored agreement to provide similar measures. The Alliance has inspected 400 of the 640 factories used by the organization's members, whereas Bangladesh Accord plans to inspect a total 1,500 factories for electrical, fire and building safety. In order to help building owners, two groups and foreign retailers are allowing garment manufacturers in the country easy access to loans, giving businesses tax holidays to help them renovate factories, and compensating workers for any loss of income incurred due to the temporary suspension.The government will continue to try to improve working conditions and the safety of workers to prevent another disaster such as the Rana Plaza building collapse from happening again.

Rana Plaza building collapse

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