The practice of fire protection, prevention, and control is heavily lacking in today’s establishments
Most business centres around Bangladesh undermine the possibility of a fire breaking out. Not until reaching the point of severity do owners feel there is more to do than just installing cheap fire extinguishers.
Despite our laws clearly mentioning it, the practice of fire protection, prevention, and control is heavily lacking in today’s establishments. Employees are not given much knowledge about fire safety and precautions, leaving them at a major risk.
Fire safety has been mentioned in multiple Bangladeshi laws, including the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006. Although followed by some owners of large industries after multiple tragedies, a major portion of employers hardly knows anything about it.
The Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 governs the laws of employment in Bangladesh. Following its amendment in 2013, more provisions regarding organizational health and safety were introduced. Much of it covers fire safety and preventive measures. Section 62 of the Act states that, every establishment shall be provided with at least one alternative connection stairway with each floor and such means of escape in case of fire and for carrying fire-fighting apparatus.
There must be a free passageway giving access to each means of escape in case of fire, and it shall be maintained for the use of all workers in every room of the establishment. A fire drill must be organized twice every year where there are 50 or more employees at a factory.
Following are the “must-know” pointers that Bangladesh Labour Act and Bangladesh Labour Rules lay down regarding fire prevention and safety:
• Unlocked, unblocked, and distinctively marked door
• One or more stairways
• Fire resisting materials, with handrails
• Effective and clearly audible means of giving warning
• Free passageways, unobstructed stairways
• Fire escape stairs not at an angle greater than 45 degrees from horizontal and less than 45 inches in width
• Portable extinguisher: one for every 969 sq feet
• Regular maintenance of fire extinguishers
• At least 18% of the workers in each section trained
• A trained fire officer for proper maintenance and upkeep of firefighting equipment
• Fire safety action plan
• No smoking within the premises
Basic steps to fight a fire
No matter how many laws get legislated, nothing would work if we are not properly trained to tackle such situations. The laws provide the necessary guideline, but it is for employers to instil this knowledge into the workers. Citizens must learn the basic tactics of fighting a fire. Some of them are:
• Take up a position where access to the fire is unrestricted
• Go to a place where a quick and safe retreat is possible
• In an indoor fire, stay close to the door
• For outdoor fire, stay on the upwind side of the fire
• A crouching posture will minimize the effects of smoke and heat. It will also help to approach the fire
It is always better to be prepared and not wait for an event to happen to take precautions. Prevention activities around the office must be carried out, aimed at preventing the outbreak of fire.
Classification of fire and how to tackle them
For the identification of hazards, the fire service classifies fire by the type of combustibles and fuel. There are four types of fire which can be extinguished in different ways:
• Class A: Fires involving solid materials of organic nature, in which combustion occurs with the formation of glowing embers. The effective extinguishing agent here is water
• Class B: Fire involving liquids or liquefiable solids
• Class C: Fire involving gases or liquefied gases in the form of a liquid spillage or a liquid or a gas leak that includes methane, propane, butane etc. The effective extinguishing agent here is foam or dry chemical powder
• Class D: Fire involving metals. Extinguishing agents containing water or carbon dioxide are ineffective and even dangerous. The most suitable ones are powdered graphite, powdered talc, soda ash, limestone, and dry sand
While it is understandable that most of us panic in such situations, having good knowledge regarding strategy may be of great help to save lives. The fire service will do most of it but it also largely depends on the cooperation of the victims.
Even if it does hamper the interior look, ladders, ropes, fire extinguishers, and other such objects should be in every corner of an office. Employers must look beyond expenses and train their employees well enough.
In times of emergency, the availability of equipment and proper training as per the law can contribute a lot to prevent excessive loss, of property and of lives.
Aiman R Khan is an Advocate, Dhaka Judge Court.