I do not know how people can watch the news every day, and hear all the bad, horrible things that happen to people who become trapped in burning buildings, yet they do not stop to look at their surroundings. I walked into this office complex for a meeting. Within two seconds of approaching this door, I could see a problem. The photo above is taken from the inside. It shows that the door that leads to the reception area, is a fire exit. I could see the fire exit sign while I was approaching this door from the car park. A large number of people work at this office. I knew within two seconds that something was wrong.
You can see from this image on the left that these fire exit doors are lockable from the outside. This is a big no-no! Of course I am concerned about people’s safety. I would not work in a place like this. However, all that aside, I am more fascinated by why and how this kind of thing does not bother anyone else. This office has been functional for many years. Dozens of people work there. Hundreds of visitors would have walked through. The office has an OH&S person. It has a safety committee that is supervised by the Board of Directors whose legal obligation is to ensure the safety of workers. Their office would have fire wardens. It would have a facilities manager. It would have an owner and a landlord and an agent. Why does it not dawn upon anyone that this is illegal, irregular, against all fire department policies, and downright risky?
What about the person who installed the fire-exit sign? Did that electrician or engineer or carpenter or contractor not pass an exam that highlights the function of a fire exit? What about the tradesperson or locksmith who installed those locks on that door, or the company that installed the doors?
Is it any wonder major scandals do take place? When newspaper headlines speak about the CEO who embezzled funds, or the bank that stole or squandered everyone’s life savings, people wonder why the authorities did not see it coming. How can people expect the authorities to prevent such embezzlement and fraud, when they, themselves, do not have the eyes to see something that puts their own life at risk?
I once worked for a major computer company. My office was on the third floor. As is my practice, I test the fire stairs. Down I went while colleagues poked fun at me. The stairwell was dark, dirty, filled with broken bricks, newspapers, chunks of cement, and lots of dust and the odd empty beverage can. It was obvious that no-one had ever used those stairs since they were built.
To make maters worse, the final door, that leads to the street, would not open. Why? On the other side was a pallet, stacked with computers. The warehouse used the space outside the fire-exit to place stock, so as to free-up room in the warehouse. Despite a sign on the door saying, ‘Do not obstruct’, it seems that no-one cared. Over 80 people worked in the office. More in the warehouse and manufacturing area. For years, no-one had so much as conducted a fire drill.
And we wonder how hundreds of partygoers can burn alive when sprinklers do not function, or alarms do not work, or stairs are blocked. We just wait for the disaster, and then some CEO or minister promises a full, independent inquiry. The time for saving lives is before the death!
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