x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Stiff fines threatened for breaking fire rules

Businesses in the Sharjah Industrial Area caught breaking fire regulations could be fined as much as Dh100,000.

SHARJAH // Businesses in the Sharjah Industrial Area caught breaking fire regulations could be fined as much as Dh100,000 (US$27,000) and shut down under rules introduced by the municipality yesterday. The new rules were prompted by fires that destroyed billions of dirhams worth of property. They included a large fire at the Emirates Refinery Company on Sept 20, which forced parts of Port Khalid to close temporarily.

Hareeb al Tunaiji, the head of an inspection committee administered by Sharjah Civil Defence and Sharjah Municipality, said the committee had begun a campaign to rid the industrial areas of safety violations. Inspectors are moving through buildings this month, issuing many more fines and warnings than they did in October. "Our approach initially is that of warning," Mr Tunaiji said. "We ask the violator to sign an agreement with us that would stop the violations in 15 days."

If violators did not follow the regulations, the municipality would cut off water and power supplies and then issue fines. If the violation continues, the committee could withdraw a company's trading licence and ban it from obtaining one in the future. Mr Tunaiji said safety violations had more than tripled in the emirate in the past two months. Committee statistics show that more than 2,400 fines were issued in October, compared with 766 in September. Officials issued more warnings, too: more than 2,300 in October, up from about 1,400 in September.

While making their rounds, inspectors have had to seek out some owners who knew their businesses violated safety regulations. "We found one man who tried to hide himself in a container because he also didn't have documents," Mr Tunaiji said. "As we opened it he was breathing profusely. Another man hid a gas cylinder in a refrigerator because it didn't meet safety norms." ykakande@thenational.ae