CHINIOT: A majority of staff posted at petrol pumps have no knowledge of using firefighting equipment because they are daily-wagers and leave the job whenever they get a better option.

The dark reality surfaced when the Civil Defense Department in Chiniot inspected filling stations across the district following a tragic fire incident in which a minor girl was badly burnt and was still struggling for life..

It happened at a pump on Jhang Road when a motorbike caught fire during refueling and flames engulfed the seven years old seated on the fuel tank. Her father and mother cried desperately to put out the fire but couldn’t. The filling boy, instead of using nearby fire extinguisher, fled from the scene. Other petrol station staff also stayed away. Finally, a nearby vendor brought a water cooler and threw water on the girl to extinguish fire.

The family comprising husband, wife and minor girl was shifted to the DHQ Hospital for treatment from where the girl was referred to the Allied Hospital, Faisalabad.

Deputy Commissioner Farooq Rasheed directed the Civil Defense Department to inspect nearly 100 filling stations across the district to verify if they had required firefighting equipment and trained staff.

Civil Defence Officer Muhammad Siddiq along with Chiniot AC Bilal Bin Hafeez inspected the Mansha Petroleum, near Rashida village, some 11 km from here on Jhang Road, where the incident took place.

He concluded the petrol pump had the required safety and firefighting equipment but none of the staff was trained to use them in emergency.

The team sealed the petrol pump and lodged FIR with Rajoa police against its owner Muhammad Qasim under sections 26 of the Petroleum Act, 1934 and Section 44 of the Petroleum Rules 1937.

The Chiniot DC further directed the Civil Defence to start fire safety training of petrol pump staff and organise mock exercises to ensure timely reaction by the staff in such eventualities.

CDO Muhammad Siddiq said the department had so far completed inspection of 90 petrol pumps and sent challans against violators to courts for punishment.

The department also conducted on-site training of pump employees and learnt a majority of them were daily-wagers and left the job early.

Muhammad Siddiq said there should be a pre-job compulsory training programme for employees at such hazardous places and no one should be allowed to hire any candidate without getting him/her trained for fire safety.

Chiniot bar president Ashraf Gujjar said the Petroleum Act 1934 and 1937, introduced by the British about a century ago, had become obsolete. He said there were no strict punishment and heavy fines for violators in such cases. He suggested the parliament to revisit this law and introduce heavy penalties and imprisonment to ensure such tragic incidents did not happen again.

Deputy Commissioner Farooq Rasheed told Dawn the district administration was making the pumps to ensure presence of required equipment. He said short measuring and adulteration were also being checked.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022

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