Since this blog began, it has had visitors from 165 countries.  I’ve been contacted by readers from outside of the United States, and have heard first-hand of door and hardware professionals in other countries using the site as a resource.  That amazes me.

We’re lucky to have the strong codes and enforcement to protect us here in the U.S.  In some other countries, there are no standardized building or fire codes, or the codes are not properly enforced.  For me to be able to share recommendations and best practices with people from around the world who want to do the right thing, is an incredible opportunity.

But despite stronger codes and increased awareness, tragedies continue to occur if inspections are not carried out, or if code enforcement officials look the other way.  It appears that the lack of code enforcement may have contributed to the huge death toll – approximately 300 people – in the recent garment fire in Karachi, Pakistan.  Another industrial fire occurred the same night in a shoe factory in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 24 people.  In both fires, workers were trapped inside the building, because the exit doors were locked or blocked.  The windows were protected by security bars, which prevented egress.

Will the punishment received by those responsible for the unsafe working conditions be enough to draw attention to the risks of what appears to be a common practice?  Or will loss-prevention continue to trump life safety?  I can only hope that the recent tragedies in Pakistan might result in change, similar to the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy of 1911.  The similarities between the incidents are undeniable.

Anger Rolls Across Pakistani City in Aftermath of Factory Fire – The New York Times

The towering metal door at the back of the burned-out garment factory could have been an escape for many of the low-paid textile workers caught in the fire here on Tuesday. Instead, it stands as a testament to greed and corruption at a factory where 289 trapped employees died.  As hundreds of workers scrambled to escape the flaming factory after a boiler explosion, they found the main sliding door — 30 feet high, big enough for a truckload of cotton — firmly locked. Instead of letting the workers escape, several survivors said Thursday, plant managers forced them to stay in order to save the company’s stock: piles of stonewashed jeans, destined for Europe.

Police reveal horror of Karachi fire –

The only exit from the building was through a door with an electronic lock which failed when the fire disrupted the power supply, he said, leaving workers trapped at the mercy of the smoke and flames.  Police have registered a murder case against the factory’s owners, who handed themselves in to court to apply for a special type of pre-arrest bail.  “The fire is definitely accidental but what is more important and criminal is that the owners had given no exits to the workers to get saved in case of emergency,” Mr Khoso said.

Pakistan factory fires kill hundreds after barred windows and locked doors trap workers inside – New York Daily News

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation as people caught in the basement were unable to escape when it filled with smoke, said the top firefighter in Karachi, Ehtisham-ud-Din.  The building only had one accessible exit, and all the other doors were locked, said Sheikh.  “It is a criminal act to lock the emergency exit doors, and we are trying to know who did it, and why?” Sheikh said.

Karachi fire – all emergency exits in factory were locked – Firstpost

The factory in this Pakistani port city where as many as 289 people were killed in a major fire had several emergency exits, but all of them were locked, said an official.  The blaze started Tuesday from the basement and gutted three other floors of the building, said the official.  He said the building had several emergency exits but all of them were locked permanently, reported Dawn.

Karachi fire – no justification acceptable – The Express Tribune

Fast forward to the incident in Karachi; what is disturbing for me is to hear arguments made to condone those who are completely at fault. To say that it was “simple negligence” shows a lack of concern and a complete denial of reality. Negligence suggests a degree of passivity that does not exist in such a situation. As the owner of a factory, one is responsible for one’s workers. If an owner chooses to forgo this responsibility, he is making a conscious decision not to provide safety measures. To say it is ‘standard practice’ to forgo such safety measures in Pakistan is also no defence, for it is analogous to saying that if any criminal activity such as murder or rape were standard practice, then any person committing either act would merely be ‘in line with such practice’.

As Hell Breaks Loose – The News International

Factories in Pakistan are concentration camps where workers are denied their basic rights guaranteed in the constitution. The factory Act of 1934 has clauses on occupational safety but Pakistan lacks any law on emergency exists. A factory with over 700 employees with 60 to 70 women and six to eight children had only one exit point and this is not the only one there are many other factories working in the country where owners don’t bother about safety precautions. In west if someone manages or operates a business, he needs to comply with fire safety law first of all. Employer or owner is required to carry out a mandatory detailed fire risk assessment identifying the risks and hazards in the premises. The risk assessment must be recorded if he has a total of five or more employees.

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