Safety first, please

Our civic and enforcement agencies are to be blamed.

High-rise buildings can pose a variety of safety hazards, if adequate attention is not paid to details at the stage of planning these structures and maintenance issues are neglected by building owners/management. Mishaps have happened in high-rise buildings in cities across the country. On Tuesday, a malfunctioning lift in a tech-park in Bangalore caused serious injury to 15 people. The lift’s cables reportedly snapped causing it to hurtle down nine floors.  On the same day, Kolkata witnessed a horrifying incident, though not in a high-rise building. A joy ride cable at a reputed amusement park in the City of Joy malfunctioned, causing the collapse of the water-slide. Children crashed to the ground from a height of 20 feet. Too often fire accidents have happened in many cities, leading to avoidable tragedies.

The owners of the building in Bangalore have blamed the lift’s manufacturers for the accident. The amusement park owners in Kolkata have blamed the public, alleging that they refused to follow safety precautions and crowded onto the water-slide. While there may be some truth in these blame games, the lift accident could have been avoided if the building owners had paid regular attention to minimum maintenance standards and the water-slide would not have collapsed if it was sturdy. Lifts and escalators are being installed in large numbers in our apartment complexes, malls and work-places. But not enough care is given to ensure they are safe at all times. What happened in Bangalore and Kolkata, therefore, cannot be dismissed as one-off accidents. They are the result of negligence.

The negligence is not just on the part of builders and contractors, owners and the day-to-day management associations. The blame must be shared equally by our civic and enforcement agencies. They are entrusted with power and authority to enforce safety standards. Many a time, builders cut corners to save on cost and yet manage to get necessary occupancy clearances. Most buildings in our cities lack fire safety measures. Many high-rise buildings operate lifts without getting the required licence to operate them. Annual maintenance check-ups are not carried out. Which is why, we, as citizens and users, can be a bit more careful and follow safety precautions. As new buildings and high-rises mushroom in our cities, we need to be more vigilant on the quality and maintenance of lift infrastructure.

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