A fire that broke out this morning on the 2nd Floor of Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA), Johor Bahru, had claimed the lives of six persons, all patients. All were in their 50s.
A fire is always a major incident. An incident that killed even a single life is always tragic.
As we share the grief of the affected families mourning the sudden loss of their loved ones, I would like to just say a few words. Words uttered with the benefit of hindsight, of course.
Workplace safety: Ensuring a workplace being safe for employees working therein and anybody else coming into its boundaries is always a paramount duty of the owner of the place. This includes fire safety. But how does the owner ensure fire safety of the place under his ownership or control? I am sure there are more than one ways to do it. Let me see:
(1) Safety and Health Committee: Companies are already compelled by law to establish and run a Safety and Health Committee at the workplace. All aspects of safety at the workplace will already have been covered by the Committee. Unfortunately, however, many owners or CEOs of many companies or workplaces (especially the small ones) one one end find the SHC requirement a nuisance, taking too much of their productive time, not useful, not important. Employees, on the other end, feel they are being burdened with extra work to do for no extra money. Whatever it is, a SHC must be empowered to function, its role must be fully supported.
(2) Fire Safety Patrol: In addition to the meetings of the SHC, Fire Safety Patrol must also done as a regular work activity. It should be done on a regular frequency: monthly or once every two months. The building or workplace owner, or the head of the company, or the management, must be the primary driving force in this activity. The patrol is to identify all things that may cause fire or a source of one. Loose electrical wires, fire doors that are blocked, damaged electrical sockets, exposed drums containing combustible substances, alarm switches that actually are not working, and those dozens of other things.
In fact, taking lessons from the above-mentioned hospital fire, companies or workplaces should immediately conduct a Fire Safety Patrol. To identify those fire hazards which are there somewhere right now but hidden or ignored. And having identified them, carry out the necessary repairs or rectifications. “But how to rectify those short-comings? We don’t have budget!” Good question. I have no good answer. But I can tell you what one of the fire safety trainers said to me once: “If a fire were to occur and a worker died, can you tell his parents ‘Sorry sir and madam, I have no budget to repair that thing which caused your son’s death’?”
(3) Fire Safety Rule: Every company or workplace already has a written rule on fire safety. No matter how simple. Just make sure all the rules are enforced and observed by everybody. Safety Departments (Safety Managers or Safety Officers) must always make sure everybody abides by the fire safety rules (and other safety rules, too).
(4) Fire Training and Drills: Never underestimate the importance of fire training and fire drills. They are not a waste of time, they can save you money, they can save lives. So please conduct those fire training, and please carry out those fire drills.
You (the CEO, company owner, workplace boss) will appreciate those “useless things” if a little fire were to happen in your factory, your office, your workplace. Trained employees will help put out the initially small fires and save you lots of money. You may ask “But why must we do it; don’t we have fire trucks/Bomba to do that job?” Let me answer you this way: Please ask your Safety Officer to check how far is the nearest Fire/Bomba Station from your factory/office/workplace. Next door? You are lucky. 20km away? You are not so lucky. Because by the time fire trucks arrive after the first emergency call is made, your factory or office or workplace is already 50% burnt.
Conclusion: Please plan for those fire training, fire drills, and Fire Safety Patrol right away! And then implement those plans!