Fire fighting guidelines suspended on RMG owners’ objection

Staff Correspondent

The government has agreed in principal to halt the implementation of Fire Fighting and Protection Guidelines 2014, after three months of its gazette notification, facing reservations from garment factory owners.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the home ministry on January 8 at the secretariat in the capital.
Earlier, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association voiced their reservations about the guidelines to the ministry and Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence.
The garment sector leaders claimed there were some inconsistencies in the guidelines and that implementation of the guidelines would harm the sector.
Without any discussion with the industry the government issued gazette notification of the guidelines, they lamented.
The government had formulated the Fire Fighting and Protection Guidelines after nine years of the enactment of Fire Fighting and Protection Act 2003 and issued gazette notification on September 18, 2014.
The BGMEA and BKMEA set their reservations on some clauses and sub-clauses related to occupancy certificate, license fee, installation of fire extinguishers, fire fighting equipments including auto sprinkler, smoke and heat detectors and establishment of over head tank and underground water reservoir.
According to the guidelines, after completion of construction of any high-rise and commercial building, owners will have to obtain occupancy certificate from the director general of BFSCD to use the building.
The BGMEA demanded relaxation of the provision for buildings that were constructed earlier.
The guidelines asked the authorities to install one auto sprinkler head in each 100 square feet.
The BGMEA differed with the guidelines and said that the requirement is bigger than necessity and auto sprinkler head is not applicable to all places.
The guidelines asked the building owners to keep 20-feet wide road surrounding the buildings for easy movement of fire service vehicles, their turning, fire fighting and rescue operations.
It also said that a factory will have to have 15-meter-wide main road on its front side.
The BGMEA said that the provisions can be applicable for factories established in the planned industrial zone and for new factories, but not for existing factories.
According to the guidelines, the factory buildings will have to have one emergency exit stairs for 50 occupants, two exits for 500 and three exits for 1,000 occupants.
The emergency exit stairs and travel distance of workshops and warehouses of highly flammable dangerous goods’ processing factories will be as same as other factories. But there should be two-hours’ fire rated wall between workshop and warehouse, the guidelines read.
The former BKMEA vice president Mohammed Hatem told New Age that the guidelines will be effective for factory buildings that are under construction, but not for existing ones.
The guidelines are conflicting with the national building code and if it is implemented, a huge number of factories, even many good factories, will close down, he claimed.
‘The home ministry has agreed in principal to halt the implementation of the guidelines as the BGMEA and BKMEA put forth some reservations,’ Siddique Ullah Bhuiyan, joint secretary (admin) of home ministry told New Age.
He said that the home ministry would form a subcommittee within a short time to scrutinise the reservations and after getting report from the committee, the guidelines will be amended.
It appears the fire fighting and protection guidelines need to be amended as the BGMEA and the BKMEA expressed strong reservations on some clauses, Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence director general Ali Ahmed Khan said.
He said that after forming the committee the draft of amended guidelines will be finalised in one or two months.

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