Fire services laws being upgraded
Tuesday, October 28 2008
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WITH more than 25 percent of TT’s fires emanating from the commercial and residential sectors, stricter fire services legislation is expected to be put in place within the next two years, to enforce improved fire and life safety habits in the workplace.
Responding to some heated questions at the ASIS Trinidad and Tobago Chapter Seminar on Fire and Life Safety yesterday morning, Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Kenrick Bethelemy admitted, “Trinidad and Tobago has inadequate fire services legislation, it needs to be upgraded , we are in the process of doing that.”
Addressing specially invited representatives from the security, judicial, manufacturing and business sectors, at the Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre, St. Ann’s, Bethelemy further explained, “We’re looking at the whole question of a Fire Precautions Act, which will sort of generate a little more authority outside of the Fire Services Act.”
Bethelmy told Newsday there were approximately 3,500 fires on an annual basis in TT. While he said that 60 percent were usually caused by bush fires, he said more than 25 percent occurred at homes and places of business.
The seminar was held in honour of Fire and Life Safety which the ASIS recognised in the month of October.
President of ASIS TT Chapter president, Gerard Mendez, in his feature address noted a move now towards a thrust to merge fire, life safety and security under one umbrella. The seminar also included a presentation by fire sub-station officer, Mervill King, who gave the audience some practical tips on fire safety.
Focusing on fires at the workplace, Bethelmy said many fires were caused mainly by human error, as well as poor maintenance of fire detection systems, and improper storage facilities.
“We are presently trying to establish some new legislation and codes for the guidance of business operators to ensure better fire and life safety on business premises.”
While he said that the development of this legislation could take about one year and a half, Bethelmy emphasised that once onstream, stricter penalties would be implemented for persons liable at places of employment.
“A lot of the penalties are already enshrined under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)” he explained, but added that new legislation would enforce the existing guidelines.
Bethelmy said that he expected many businesses to support the initiative. “ At first the response in normally negative, since businessmen may think of the costs involved in abiding to certain safety codes, but when they look at the kinds of costs sustained if you don’t have protection, it makes more sense to upgrade.”
With regards to the performance of the Fire Services arm in TT, Bethelmy said that there were some weaknesses in the current system, including a need for increased exposure to training in fire safety, the upgrade of knowledge in fire and life safety, as well as a strengthening of links between the community and the fire department.