TWO back-to-back factory fire incidents in Lahore and Karachi exposed another ghastly fact about safety standards not being followed in the industrial sector. These two horrifying incidents show an overall disconnect between the law and the citizens of Pakistan.

When it comes to law, we have everything in the book, however when it comes to implementation and adherence, we have serious flaws.

Laws are made by humans and their application is also ensured by humans, this is why we have regulatory institutions and other law and order establishments to oversee that all rules and regulations are being followed by all entities and segments of society.

Unfortunately, when bribery and corruption becomes a norm to get away with not implementing standards and procedures, because they are painful and costly for the entity, these things can happen anytime without warning.

It is not always the responsibility of the authorities to make sure that every safety standard is being followed, it is also the responsibility of people, citizens, owners and anyone who may encounter such a lack of caution and benevolence which may become a threat to the lives of other people.

Let me give an example from the city I live in. Someone noticed an overcrowded prayer hall in a mosque and reported it to the authorities, the fire department made an arbitrary visit to the mosque and advised that such a huge number of people cannot be at one place at one given time as the entry exit doors are not meeting the minimum standard of evacuation in case of any emergency.

Their assessment was not resisted by anyone or no one tried to pay them out of this conclusion, rather three Friday prayers were schedule, with half an hour difference to accommodate everyone.

At another time, it was the eve of Eid prayers and in the late night the fire department suddenly inspected the prayer hall which was booked for the occasion, again they refused to allow prayers on account of doors being too narrow for the volume of public.

Immediately the venue had to be changed overnight to another location which met the minimum safety standards. There was no ‘other’ way to convince the authorities.

Everyone felt safe and cared for.

We should organise ourselves as a civilised, caring and law-abiding society rather than a ‘free for all’ crowd so that everyone’s life is ensured maximum safety as much as humanly possible.


Some questions

IT is with profound sorrow and grief that we all mourn lives that perished in the tragic fire incident in the textile area on Sept 11.

What did we learn from previous fires which had occurred, particularly the one in a paint industry? Are we just going to mourn and forget once we get back to our daily routine life? What are the causes which led to this incident?

Yes, Pakistan has earned a reputable name in textile in terms of quality and competing with other countries in the world.

If correct, Pakistan-made football was not used for ages in Olympics not because of quality issue or price, but for utilising underage children to work in the sports manufacturing industry.

Are we going in the direction, where we can say we manufacture quality garments, but the international market kicks us out because of no safety standards?

Who is to blame, the owner of the garment factory? Before we say yes or no, following questions need to be answered What safety standards were followed?

Who had approved the layout of the industry?

How much was the free space area?

When was the industry last inspected and by whom?

How often fire drill was carried out?

How many smoke detectors and how far apart were placed?

Was there a fire sprinkler system or not?

Was there an emergency fire alarm system or not?

How many inlet/outlet doors were there and how far apart?

Were signs properly placed at each location, in terms of exit?

How much was the total electrical load and operating load?

How was raw and finished material stored and handled?

Without any question, it is a complex situation: everyone involved will point fingers at others. How can we correct the situation, one possible answer is employee awareness in terms of their right to know.

Let us answer the above questions for each small, medium-sized and large industry.

M. A. PATEL Project/Environmental Engineer Chicago, IL

Political interference

THE twin factory fires and their death toll are now considered the worst industrial incidents to have ever happened in Pakistan.

True to form, elements in the electronic media and civil society organisations are blaming the provincial government and bureaucracy in general, and the Sindh labour department in particular, for not enforcing labour laws that could have prevented this tragedy.

It’s an open secret in the labour department that some industrial units are exempt from inspections.

A blatant example of such influence can be found in the lack of official action against the vast majority of industrial units whose owners refuse to pay their workers the minimum wage.

In order to avoid such incidents in future, political interference in the provincial bureaucracy must be checked. The safety of government officials should be ensured so that they go about their work without fearing for their lives. Had labour officials not been harassed away from this particular factory as some media reports have claimed, the families of more than 200 souls would not have been in mourning today.



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