SHARJAH // Companies found in violation of fire-safety regulations could be fined up to Dh500,000 as part of a summer safety campaign in Sharjah's industrial areas.
About 70 inspectors started the first of an estimated 10,000 company visits last week, said Hareb al Tunaiji, the director general of the Sharjah Emergency Inspection Committee.
The purpose of the inspections is to prevent a repeat of the sort of incident that occurred on Saturday, when a gas explosion believed to have started in a cafeteria damaged more than 10 shops and shattered the windows of 15 cars.
Among the 31 types of violation that the inspectors will be looking for are a lack of extinguishers and sprinklers, an absence of emergency exits and the storage of cooking stoves in workers' rooms.
Warnings will be issued for first-time infractions, which must then be rectified within 48 hours. If the situation does not improve, the owners will be fined and must agree in writing to solve the problem within another 48 hours. If the problem persists, the company will be closed until all its violations are corrected.
Mr al Tunaiji said the inspections were targeting industrial and commercial facilities as well as workers' housing, adding that in the past week several irregularities had been found and warnings issued.
Some worker accommodation units "had very small doors that could delay evacuation in an emergency", he said. "We found other workers hiding gas cylinders in wooden boxes and their food in fridges behind the door. They were trying to hide them from inspectors."
Mr al Tunaiji also appealed to companies providing fire safety products to carry out regular maintenance on the equipment they supply. He said there were 300 fire safety companies licensed to operate in the emirate.
If inspectors found a lack of maintenance they could fine the offending company.
In an earlier campaign in March and April, the inspection committee visited 500 high-risk establishments including oil and petrochemical companies.
"These companies were given extra priority and visited before summer because they are classified among the high risk companies," he said. "We may do another visit to any of them during this general summer campaign, but we have already ensured their safety in the previous campaign."
Mr al Tunaiji also appealed to residents to install fire extinguishers, noting the cost was not prohibitive. "There is no reason at all why a home should not have one."
Meanwhile, the premises that suffered Saturday's gas explosion remained cordoned off yesterday. Residents were permitted to return to their apartments, but shops were not allowed to open. A police spokesman said that the CID was investigating.
The emirate also experienced some major explosions last summer, including one that destroyed five warehouses at the National Paints factory and another that gutted the Al Kuwait apartment building.