Factory fire kills 72 workers

by Hannah Norton15 May 2015
Seventy-two factory workers have died in a fire after being trapped on the second floor of a factory in Manila, in the Philippines, on Wednesday.

The tragedy comes only weeks after three workers were injured in a fire at a chemical plant in Tanjong Penjuru, Singapore.

Barred windows are being blamed for trapping most of the workers who perished in Wednesday’s fire on the second floor.

Philippine police are now investigating the cause of the fire, with questions being raised around whether the factory followed fire and building safety standards.

A factory owner told authorities the log book containing the list of staff on duty was lost in the blaze, making it hard to ascertain exactly who was in the factory at the time of the fire, CNN has reported.

What can HR do to help mitigate the effects of a major tragedy or crisis like this?
According to Gary Anderson, managing director of business and risk consulting firm, Protiviti, HR is critical to an effective emergency response plan.

“[HR]’s role is to ensure staff have regular, practical and up-to-date training so they understand what to do and what to expect when a crisis strikes,” he said.

“HR will also be instrumental in ensuring there are appropriate contingency measures where a crisis impacts staff working arrangements. These include policies relating to compensation, reduced hours, remote working or relocation where the business is temporarily unable to operate.

“All relevant staff must understand the hazards they potentially face, the steps they should take and who to contact within the organisation for information.”

Employers ought to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees – that’s the ‘golden rule’ developed by Singapore Courts around duty of care, established in the Court of Appeal case Chandran a/l Subbiah v Dockers Marine Pte Ltd.

This is reiterated by the goals of the Workplace Safety and Health Council and MOM for Singapore to be a role model in health and safety at work by 2018, with the aim of reducing the national fatality rate to less than 1.8% per 100,000 workers by then.

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