The Bangladesh part of the Teatulia family feels deeply affected by the terrible tragedy of Rana Plaza, a garments factory whose recent collapsed led to the deaths of more than 1,000 workers. Both the nature and the scale of this accident has left us feeling stunned, and with some deep soul-searching about how some businesses are conducted here. In the immediate aftermath, we have extended our helping hand to the rescuers as best as we could by supporting SAFE, an organization with a great track-record in disaster relief. We are now working with them to aid the rehabilitation of survivors as well. Our individual contribution might be small, but the way thousands of Bangladeshis have spontaneously come forward to unite and help, in a society often riven by politics, has been a silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud of unforgivable, unfathomable human loss.
We have been always very serious about worker safety at Teatulia, but this heart-rending tragedy has, of course, reminded us of its cardinal importance. We are not only committed to abide by the rules and codes that apply to the industry, but, moreover, to keep trying to take that extra step beyond requirements to make the lives of our workers safer and better as we go forward. Most of our workers are, of course, in the field, so the collapse of an ill-constructed building is not a concern for us. The few built facilities we have – factory, storage, office and living-quarters – are all one-storied and built very sturdily.
Our focus is rather on health, hygiene and safety of workers in the field. Apart from standard but critical programs such as training and provisions for fire safety and safe operation of machines, we also focus on how to be safe in the field: against snakes, insect bites, even dehydration. We have a residential doctor, regular check-ups and first aid and respondents for instant or small issues. We assist in securing safe drinking water and safe sanitary systems for our workers, and also on educating them on matters of nutrition and hygiene for themselves and their families. The fact that we are organic already removes the dangers posed to individuals or workers from any exposure to chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
We are proud to say that in over 12 years of operation we have not experienced a fatality or casualty of any serious nature in case of a single individual that might be considered ‘industrial,’ meaning stemming directly from work conditions. We are, however, keenly aware that even a perfect record in the past is not inherently a guarantor of future safety, and have renewed our vows to stay vigilant.
Even as we find relief in the relative easier conditions of our workplace, our thoughts are currently very much with our fellow workers who face far more difficult circumstances. But we also believe that Bangladesh, given its track-record of resilience and renewal, and especially given the signs of unity in the face of crisis seen during the recent rescue efforts, can emerge from this terrible moment of tragedy to build a safer future.