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OCCUPATIONAL safety or health is a sector that has often been overlooked with impunity.

Companies and other business entities have been allowed to operate with no regard paid to whether the premises are safe not only for business but for the workers.

In Lusaka yesterday, in the heavy industrial area, three fuel tankers caught fire midmorning, leaving three workers with severe burns.

As the tankers blew up, one after the other, the workers from the different companies operating in the yard, scampered for safety.

The billowing dark cloud of smoke could be seen from as far as the city centre, almost five kilometres away.

It is just by luck that only three people were burnt considering that there are other business entities that operate from the premises where the tankers were parked.

The inferno could also have spread to nearby companies causing a major disaster.

Credit must be given to the Lusaka City Council Fire Brigade which responded within minutes of the fire breaking out.  The Zambia Air Force fire brigade also chipped in even though they arrived much later.

But we hope companies will draw some lessons from this unfortunate mishap and take seriously the observations made by the Lusaka Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer, Mr Robert Mumba

Giving an update on the fire situation at the scene, Mr Mumba, expressed concern with the way the fuel tankers had been parked.

“We managed to quench the fire. We are yet to establish the cause of the fire. I am sure these people just park here, this is not a fuel depot or  car park. We want to find out who the owners of this place are and find out what precautionary measures they have put in place.

“The place to keep fuel tankers must be secured. As you can see there are some bushes here around, it must be an open space, but the way it is, the tankers are parked near a bush,” Mr Mumba said.

Yes, Mr Mumba is right because there are no safety measures put in place, not even fire-fighting extinguishers.

It is quite obvious that the owners of the fuel tankers just park their vehicles there as “squatters.”

This is the more reason that business entities in the fuel transport sector are monitored to ensure that they operate in secure areas.

Ironically, the scene of yesterday’s inferno is just about two streets away from a major fuel depot where tankers congest the road as they deliver fuel.

We hope the authorities will take note of yesterday’s inferno and ensure that such vehicles operate from secure premises.  If anything, they should not be found in heavily populated areas.

With the government’s empowerment programme that has seen some cooperatives run by youths given fuel tankers, it is likely that some do not have proper yards to operate from and need guidance.

Yesterday’s inferno might have been minor but forewarned is forearmed.  People might not be so lucky the next time.

The time to restore order is now.

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