This past Wednesday, Pakistan suffered its worst industrial accident to date in the commercial area of Karachi, taking 258 lives that worked in the clothing factory. This fire occurred just hours after another fire occurred in the city of Lahore that killed 25 people.
Many are claiming that the cause of the fire was due to a boiler explosion and then the fire spread when it came in contact with chemical fluids used in manufacturing shoes. When the employees in the cramped factory tried to escape, they only had the option of one exit or jumping out windows because the other doors were locked and most of the windows had bars over them. The majority of people died because they were trapped in the basement and died of smoke inhalation.
It is a common practice among factories to lock the doors in order to prevent employees from leaving before their shift is over. Also, the factory lacked basic safety equipment such as fire alarms and sprinklers. The owners of the Karachi factory have recently been let go on bail. Families believe they will not get justice for the loss of their loved ones because the factory owners are rich and powerful. Pakistani police are investigating whether the owners’ negligence led to the fire.
I think it is pretty obvious that the owners’ blatant disregard to equip their factory with proper safety equipment and exits caused these deaths. It is reported that other factories in Karachi are setup very similar. Many factories are put up illegally and somehow pass regulations without having the necessary safety measures.
How are these factory owners allowed to cut corners and sacrifice the safety of their employees? What type of punishment/charges should the owners of the factory receive?
Sources: The Washington Post, ABC News, The New York Times
To build a factory where there are bars on windows and locked exit doors is the equivalent of creating a death trap. Add in the fact that the products manufactured in the factory were produced using chemicals that were flammable, the owners were asking for a disaster. In the US, I am reminded of the case Commonwealth v. Welansky where a nightclub owner was found guilty of being reckless when he locked doors and placed artificial plants in front of exit doors before a fire broke out. According to the ruling from Welansky, “there is a duty of care for the safety those visitors by the person who maintains the premises. Intentional failure to take such care in disregard of the probable harmful consequences of that failure constitutes wanton or reckless conduct.” In this case, it seems clear that the owners intentionally disregarded the risks when they locked exit doors and placed bars on the windows to prevent thefts. Surely the owners have heard of installing security cameras as an alternative method to preventing and discouraging thefts. However, the owner was reckless and needlessly created the possibility of harm that lead to the deaths of 283 innocent people.
Dan is absolutely right. The scariest part is that this story reminded me of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire from one hundred years ago. In both situations, doors were locked to prevent employees from leaving early or stealing, as well as other unsafe hazards.
In the last hundred years, the United States has ramped up its safety laws in factories to make sure that tragedies like this never happen again. The fact that a factory in Pakistan can repeat a similar tragedy one hundred years later is simply appalling.