Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite has given the assurance that stores in Bridgetown are safe for staff and customers despite the fact that some only one door for entrance and exit, with no other means of escape in the event of an emergency.
He told the congregation at the James Street Methodist Church gathered yesterday for the start of national Fire Service Week that over the last few years fire officers have been spending a considerable amount of time in Bridgetown assisting businesses and working continuously to ensure that persons can shop in a safe environment.
Brathwaite said his comment was meant to address recently published reports that many stores in the City continued to be unsafe because they operate with single doors which serve as the sole avenue for both entry and exit.
Earlier this month Barbadians observed the fifth anniversary of the Campus Trendz store fire that took the lives of six young women on September 3 2010. That store had a single door.
The tragedy triggered pleas for the many one-door establishments to have alternative exits and to strengthen safety.
“The fact that a shop has one door, it does not make it entirely dangerous, and we have been going from store to store looking at the length and width and trying to advise owners of the best way that they can protect themselves and the business to the stores,” Brathwaite said.
“We’ve done that in particular, over the last couple of years [but]from what I’ve read, you would believe that we’re not doing anything and the fact that the store has one door meant that automatically persons were at risk there continuously.”
During a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the fire, leading crusader against domestic violence Liesel Daisley complained that young women continued to work in unsafe “one-door” stores and suggested that that there had been little to no progress in terms of safety in the five years since the tragedy.
Daisley, the founder of the Service Alliance for Violent Encounters (SAVE) Foundation said it was unfair for vulnerable young women working hard to earn an honest dollar to be forced to do so under unsafe and unlawful conditions.
However, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer has said that one-door establishment will not necessarily become extinct under the amended Shops Act.
“Some facilities are one-door facilities, and it’s difficult to change them from being one-door facilities because that’s just how [they are],” she said at a recent meeting of the St George South branch of the Democratic Labour Party.
Meanwhile Minister Brathwaite used the occasion of the Fire Service’s 60th anniversary to announce that it will soon begin recruiting auxiliary officers to supplement the work of firemen officers.
Brathwaite said that fire officers are being called upon to perform non-essential tasks in addition to applying their skills in critical situations, causing stressing situations, during the crop season when they sometimes work between 12 and 15 hours a day.
“We know that they would always want to serve the people [but] there comes a point in time when you cannot go any more. So it is our hope to supplement them with these auxiliary officers who will be called in as required,” he said.