"Instead of strengthening core institutions, people think we can do it through a self-regulatory mechanism," he said. "We can see it hasn't worked."
The fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan have come as many garment makers move their production away from China, where wages are rising, says Maurizio Bussi, director of the International Labor Organization's Decent Work Team in south-east Asia.
Unlike other industries like car manufacturing, the garment trade is highly mobile with low start-up costs, so companies move from country to country in search of the cheapest pool of labor, he said.
As such, it's often the first rung on the industrial ladder for many poor countries like Bangladesh that have a large but low-skilled workforce.
"This is part of the natural business dynamics of a very price sensitive sector such as the garment industry," he said.
"Is this exposing workers to additional risk? In a sense yes -- because the systems that protect workers in these countries are not as well developed and will require further engagement and commitment from governments, local employers and foreign investors."