Photo credit: Advocate, Paradis La, 2017
The development of an industry-driven economy and the aspiration to alleviate poverty through sustainable job creation enabled by increased investment opportunities in all products and service offerings are key priorities for the developing world and one of Uganda’s top priorities. However, the development of the industrial and service establishments is not in resonance with the growing demand for business-oriented occupational safety and health requirements to safeguard workers, plant and equipment from the dangers associated with industrial and domestic population growth. It is thus imperative for us not to disregard the hazardous effects associated with the fast development of an industrial economy among which fire protection engineering and emergency management related products and services remain a vital component for business sustainability and continuity.
With the majority of fire incidences preventable, most East African companies and upcoming ventures still lack the necessary basic fire prevention engineering and preparedness best practices to cub the growing vice. The Injury control centre – Uganda in its 2010 Safety abstract report notes that most establishments are reportedly not prepared to deal with fires and therefore East African educational ministries need to address these laxities from a management perspective. The impacts of fire outbreaks are significantly immense in Uganda and Kenya with Uganda estimated to loose over Thirty billion shillings (Shs 30B) each year according to Uganda’s Directorate of Police Fire Prevention and Rescue Services (DPFPRS). Similarly, Kenya among other East African countries has reportedly seen a growing trend of fire outbreaks since 2011 according to the Kenya national disaster operations centre which reported 71 fires in Nairobi alone between January and February 2011 and asset loss in excess of USD 1 million. According to Uganda’s ministry of education for instance, by June 2012 alone, the majority of most educational businesses and investments did not adhere to established safety guidelines, policies and procedures to avert fire-related occurrences that claimed many lives. With most fires destroying businesses in 3rd world economies that are highly poverty-stricken, this deters government and community-based initiatives to create a sustainable business environment for all.
Additionally, according to a report by the DPFPRS in Uganda, over 409 fire outbreaks were recorded between January and March 2015 alone, which figures are highly alarming and among one of the highest disasters recorded, while 904 fire outbreaks were reported in various parts of Uganda in 2014. Without proper research and investment to unearth this growing trend, Uganda will surely fail to meet its millennium development goals which among others include poverty eradication as a result of failure to safeguard the business community and the growing class of industrial establishments in selected locations across the country. Moreover, some of the affected investments are related to projects funded to empower local people to eradicate poverty such as youth ventures, markets, schools and other small businesses. For instance, the March 2015 factory fire incident at Crest Foam Factory located in Kampala claimed lives and property worth millions were destroyed. However, some reports have attributed the majority of such incidents to inadequate safety management systems and management consideration of safety as a prodigiously costly imitative as opposed to an investment. Fire preparedness and response systems including Chemical safety and evacuation need to be adequately enforced in factories/industries/manufacturing, in addition, to fire risk assessments and other key safety elements within facility establishments if Uganda and East Africa are to meet their industrial and business development objectives.
Uganda like many developing Countries counterparts currently faces a large human resource gap especially in the highly specialised sectors like occupational safety and Health necessary to service, steer and sustain development in both existing and newly emerging sectors like the Oil and gas, manufacturing, Engineering among others. This is further highlighted in various reports including: Industrial Baseline Survey report by Oil and gas joint venture partners (CNOOC, Tullow Oil and Total E&P), Front End Engineering Design reports for the East African Crude Oil pipeline and Albertine Graben field development plans, etc. Furthermore, the Skilling Uganda baseline survey reveals that most of the local consultants and companies also lack the required certifications to offer specialised services of which occupational Safety and Health is not an exception but rather a primary concern. It is upon this background and more that Fire safety service providers should be supported through incentivization to further champion the promotion of fire protection engineering, safety products, and services to assist clients to secure a more sustainable investment approach for long term success.
Article by Gwamba gerald