This is a guest post from fire safety expert Dr. David Gold, a former firefighter, previously with the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In the wake of the tragic fires in Bangladesh that killed more than 100 people on Sunday, and the fatal fires within the last two months in Pakistan, those of us who have worked to help prevent such disasters are reminded of the countless other tragedies that have swept the countries and the sub-continent over the past several decades. While we mourn the deaths of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani garment workers, we must also keep the survivors and the victims’ families in our thoughts – the trauma, devastation and loss they have faced will live on for years to come.
With today’s technology and resources, we cannot allow one more preventable death due to a fire to occur in a factory. I have begun working with FLA to develop tools and guidance materials to help factory management and workers implement and sustain programs designed to prevent fires and put into place procedures and structures to support rapid and safe emergency evacuation. I know many companies, factories and other stakeholders are also building upon or developing their own fire safety initiatives. While I know that these efforts will all take time, there are three urgent actions any factory manager can take today to prevent a fire-related disaster in their facility:
- Separate all combustible and flammable materials from sources of heat and ensure the handling of such materials follows established policies, procedures and Codes of Conduct.
- Ensure that every employee has at least two unobstructed and well-lit paths to exit the building from their workstations to a safe location away from the facility where they can be accounted for.
- Establish and test an evacuation alarm system in the facility.
In the coming months I will work with FLA affiliates, public agencies, civil society organizations and workers to build competencies at the local level to prevent disasters like those in Bangladesh and Pakistan. In the meantime, join me in urging any factory managers you know to take these immediate steps, and email [email protected] to get in touch with me or with FLA staff regarding issues related to fire safety.