All hands to the pump: ILO helps boost capacity of the Bangladesh fire service

Bangladesh’s Fire Service and Civil Defence Department plays a vital role in ensuring the safety of the nation’s vast Ready Made Garment sector.

In addition to responding to blazes the Fire Service plays an equally important role certifying the safety of factories; its technical expertise and recommendations to owners helping prevent fires from happening.

As part of its activities to enhance safety in the Bangladesh RMG sector, ILO is working closely with the Fire Service to further enhance the capacity of its staff. The activities are taking place as part of ILO’s Improving General Building and Fire Safety Project funded by the US Department of Labour.

A five day training programme held 19-23 October 2014 saw 15 Fire Service inspectors undergo intensive training on the theory and practice of fire inspections. Providing the training was consultancy firm ARUP who provided the Fire Service with some of the latest internationally recognised fire safety management techniques.

Following four days in the classroom, the participants headed out to an RMG factory where they spread out through the multi-storied facility to practice putting what they had learned to use, in a real life environment.

Taking part in the training was Warehouse Inspector Abul Basher.
“Previously we did not know how to inspect factories very well we just knew that we had to inspect them. In this training we have learned a lot such as the right way and wrong way to do things. I have personally learned a lot and benefited greatly. Before we did not understand the terminology but in this training it has been clarified. We know how to implement the training as well as how we will develop professionally,” he said.

Meanwhile, Inspector Mohammad Abdul Mannan based in Chittagong highlighted some of the difficulties inspectors face in the field.
“I have been a fire inspector for two and a half years. We guide factories and other organizations to follow the rules. Most of the time they say ‘I am doing it, I am doing it,’ but often they are lazy. I very much hope that this training will help me in my work.”

The 15 Fire Service staff who took part in this session will receive additional advanced training in November. They will then become instructors for other members of the Fire Service, passing on the skills to other fire inspectors not only in Dhaka but throughout the country. The international standard training materials will also be translated into local language in order to increase their impact.

Fire Service Director Major AKM Shakil Newaz highlighted the progress he felt the fire inspectors were making.
“Earlier we had very narrow ideas about carrying out inspections. Now we are very comfortable and you can see that the confidence of the inspectors is very high.”