Bangladesh restaurant sector faces urgent need for enhanced fire safety measures


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Lack of Fire Suppression Systems in Dhaka’s Restaurants

In Dhaka city, with an estimated 25,000 restaurants, a pressing concern has surfaced regarding fire safety measures.

Imran Hassan, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners’ Association (BROA), highlighted the lack of proper fire suppression systems in these establishments during an interview with The Daily Star on 2nd March 2024.

Hassan revealed that of the numerous restaurants in the city, only about 5,000 are registered with the relevant authority.

This registration shortfall raises significant concerns about the fire safety preparedness of these establishments.

The recent tragedy of a fire in a building housing 14 restaurants on Bailey Road in Dhaka, which resulted in at least 46 fatalities, has brought the issue into sharp focus.

Hassan stated: “First of all, a restaurant kitchen must have a specialised fire protection system for the establishment to be granted the licence to run.”

He emphasised the need for adherence to the “3E” principle – education, engineering, and enforcement – which is a standard in developed countries for fire safety in restaurants.

Training and Compliance Challenges

A significant gap in fire safety training and compliance in the restaurant sector was outlined by Hassan.

He noted that out of the approximately 250,000 workers employed in these establishments, a mere 5 percent have received fire safety training.

Hassan lamented the lack of proper adherence to fire containment measures and stated: “But in practice, nobody properly follows such rules in Bangladesh and hardly any emphasis is given to fire-containment measures.”

Hassan further criticised the process of obtaining operating licences for restaurants.

He pointed out that, in reality, many licences are “managed” through unofficial channels, with little regard for environmental or fire safety concerns.

The responsibility for ensuring compliance falls to multiple government agencies, including the fire service, civil defence, and Department of Environment.

However, Hassan alleged these agencies were lax in their duties and not holding restaurant and building owners accountable.

The Path Forward for Restaurant Fire Safety

The severity of the situation calls for a concerted effort to improve fire safety measures in Bangladesh’s restaurant industry.

Hassan drew parallels to the garment industry, which improved its fire safety standards due to external pressure.

He expressed disappointment at the ineffectiveness of BROA in promoting fire safety, saying: “We tried to make the restaurant owners aware about fire safety and compliance issues as it is an industry…but nobody listens to us.”

Hassan’s statements underscore the need for a systemic change in the approach towards fire safety in the restaurant industry.

He stressed the importance of prioritising life safety over profit and called for a collective responsibility among restaurant owners, relevant government agencies, and the BROA to address these critical safety issues.

IFSJ Comment

The recent insights from Imran Hassan, Secretary General of the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners’ Association, regarding the alarming state of fire safety measures in Dhaka’s restaurants, highlight a significant concern.

The lack of proper fire suppression systems and training in fire safety is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and action.

This situation calls for a collaborative effort from restaurant owners, government agencies, and associations like BROA to ensure the safety of both employees and patrons.

The adoption of stringent fire safety measures, akin to those implemented in the garment industry, is crucial for the restaurant sector.

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