Four days after Minister of Labour, Colin Jordan, revealed that the Labour Department is encumbered by a lack of manpower to adequately conduct health and safety inspections of businesses, the Barbados Fire Service is reporting similar challenges in conducting fire safety inspections.
According to Fire Safety Officer (FSO), Grantley Greene, the Barbados Fire Service would like to inspect all businesses, especially since the harsh lessons of the Campus Trendz fire, which claimed the lives of six young women.
“We are doing our best to put things in place so that every business in Barbados can be inspected but you must understand that there are a lot of businesses in Barbados. We are stretched to get to all of them, despite our best efforts. We still remember Campus Trendz but we don’t have the manpower and resources to get to every business,” Greene said.
He was referring to the 2010 incident in which the young women perished after two men firebombed the Tudor Street establishment after robbing the popular clothing store. The event sparked national debate on fire safety procedures for businesses, especially as it relates to having more than one emergency exit.
Greene told Barbados TODAY that for the most part, stores in The City have been acting quite responsibly and even though some stores are unable to create additional exits, they have come a long way as it relates to fire safety.
“Companies are being cooperative in having to put measures in place to help to prevent some of the painful lessons that we would have learnt from the Campus Trendz tragedy. For example where we can’t put an additional exit, we have put fire prevention measures such as extinguishers. We have even had businesses which call us and request that we do an inspection for them to help improve their security,” he said.
However, the FSO noted that there is still room for improvement as he has seen where some businesses are not keeping up with follow up maintenance of their fire extinguishers. “We have seen a few cases where businesses have fire extinguishers, but that equipment has passed the expiry date. We have even seen some cases where the extinguishers are hanging on the wall but are empty. So we would like to impress upon businesses to stay on top of this issue,”
Just last week the Liquidation Centre, which was compulsorily acquired by Government last month, was condemned for violating health and fire regulations. The fire service found multiple fire hazards and recommended that the public not be allowed inside for any reason.
The fire safety inspection found that there was no properly functioning firefighting equipment, that the entire property lacked clear access from one area to the other or to the outside as the aisles were filled with items.
“All stored items were stacked too close to the roof and to the lighting fixtures; there were lights that flickered the entire duration of the inspection, raising concerns about electrical issues [and] there were areas within the building used as part of the workspace that presented fall and slip hazards from at height,” the fire service noted.