In a Q&A with Candor Connect, Baljit Singh, Head – Operations, Candor TechSpace, shares some valuable guidelines on fire prevention and safety for the benefit of occupiers and their employees.

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Baljit-Singh

At Candor TechSpace, fire safety has always been of importance for us. We demonstrate it through our consistent reviews of our system. Our preventive approach to fire safety ensures there are no life threats to employees due to any fire emergency. We endeavour to go beyond the minimum statutory requirements and carry out yearly fire safety reviews of our campuses by experienced third-party consultants. During reviews, each campus is rigorously inspected for more than 10 days consecutively—an activity that yields a fruitful outcome every time. We study the findings of the activity and then work on the areas in need of improvement.

Occupiers too can help us ensure fire safety by participating in our fire safety drives and maintaining firefree campuses. Candor Connect interviews Baljit Singh, Head – Operations, Candor TechSpace, to know more about how to prevent fire in the workplace. Excerpts from the interview:

 

Which preventive fire safety measures are being undertaken at Candor’s campuses?

Did you know that use of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders for any type of cutting, welding and brazing work is restricted inside Candor’s campuses? This is because in our campuses, where cutting and welding work happens in enclosed areas, any concentration of LPG can ignite sparks and even lead to combustion of accumulated gas. Moreover, in case of an LPG leak in an enclosed area, the LPG will sink and become concentrated at the ground level, accumulate and sometimes avoid detection.

Not using LPG helps us to eradicate the possibility of LPG concentration. Therefore, in the interest of safety, we have taken a decision to not use LPG inside operational areas. We are already replacing the LPG Manifolds System to dedicated piped natural gas (PNG) lines for eradicating the LPG storage hazard.

 

Tell us about your learnings from a recent major fire in the country.

A major fire had broken out at Star Design Studio, a coaching institute for architectural entrance exams in Sarthana, Surat. The fire, which claimed 22 innocent lives on 22nd May 2019, raised many alarms about the inefficiency on part of the authority. The incident also awakened us to the harsh fact that fire safety norms are easily ignored by stakeholders without realising the consequences. Here’s what all contributed to the tragedy:

  • A short circuit in one of the AC ducts caused the fire; it was unstoppable because of several lapses in the safety protocol. For instance, the coaching institute was permitted to construct only one floor, but two more floors were added illegally.
  • The institute was also using a six-foot high dome on the terrace for several activities.
  • The fourth floor was attached to the third floor by an iron and wood staircase. Though the owners of the building had applied for regularising the structure, they did not mention anything about the illegal fourth floor. The application was approved without conducting any inspection, therefore, the engineer who did not visit the building physically, was also responsible for the accident.
  • Since the staircase to the fourth floor was made of wood and iron, the fire spread rapidly and began engulfing the structure.
  • There were also flammable materials in the institute— wooden floors, benches and tyres were used as seats.
    All caught fire in a few minutes and turned the place into ashes.
  • Lack of ventilation also contributed to the accumulation of smoke that further worsened the situation.
  • The fire extinguisher was hardly working; moreover the students did not know how to use it.
  • The fire brigade took almost 45 minutes to reach the building and did not prove to be of much help in controlling the fire. Moreover, no fire audits were conducted by the officials, though they had been directed to do so after a similar incident in November 2018 had highlighted the need for fire safety audits.
  • As there was no fire exit in the building, students trapped on the third and fourth floors of the building
    jumped from the window. Many students died either due to suffocation or by jumping off the building.

 

Tell us about your learnings from a recent major fire in the country.

The need is to strictly comply with various fire safety measures. There is also a need to educate people about the use of fire extinguishers in case of an emergency. Fire exit routes must be accessible. On our part, we should conduct a fire risk assessment and fire load calculation on all the occupied floors so as to identify the magnitude of fires that may happen on a floor and device a response plan for combating the same.

I would like to advise occupiers to implement adequate fire safety measures in their premises since this will help them keep a check on any accidents. After all, many a life can be saved with precautions!

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What are the preventive fire safety guidelines for office floors?

Occupiers on their part should also follow some measures to ensure fire safety in their offices within the campus. Here are some basic guidelines:

  • The escape routes must be kept clear always; we request you to depute specialised teams for ensuring the same round the clock.
  • The refuge areas are to be used in case of emergencies when vertical evacuation is not possible. Therefore, please ensure that refuge areas are always kept clear so that they can accommodate maximum people in case of an emergency.
  • Any activity which can produce heat, spark or flame must have a ‘hot work permit’ issued from the building management team. A job safety analysis must be done for identifying the sources of fuel nearby or any such activity.
  • There have been cases of kitchen fires in the past. Therefore, we strongly recommend that no cooking should be done inside the office buildings. When it comes to cooking done in designated areas, a Kitchen Fire Suppression
    System must be installed to ensure quick response in case of fires.
  • Make sure that combustible materials like waste papers or waste packing material are not stored in unattended areas or closed rooms. Necessary measures must be taken for storage of such materials, if at all they need to be stored for a short duration.
  • We advise our patrons to conduct regular fire safety sessions in their premises so that their employees get sufficient knowledge on the subject and can be critical assets during fire emergencies.
  • Internal fire safety equipment like fire alarms and firefighting systems should be checked regularly.