It was around 7pm that gloomy Saturday night when I turned on my WhatsApp chat, only to be greeted with over 200 messages flashing on the icon. I was wondering what that meant because I had cleared all the messages around 3pm that day. And normally, Saturdays tend not to be too busy with WhatsApp.
In my curiosity, I started opening group chats for that is where one normally gets the gossips in town. Then I flipped through individual chats and almost all the messages were the same.
To my dismay, vivid and gloomy pictures of what looked like the rapture itself were popping up. All fingers were pointing to an explosion at Atomic Junction, a suburb of Accra. On one platform, someone living in Aburi could see the smoke even from their location. Friends and family members outside had all heard about an explosion in Accra and were calling to find out.
I turned on the TV and well and behold what I was seeing on whatsapp was confirmed. A gas explosion? My immediate reaction was a soliloquy. Those deadly accidents were becoming one too many. When were we going to see an end to explosions and fire outbreaks at gas or fuel stations and injuring lives and properties?
Over the last few days as the results of the explosion gained currency, I have learnt to my chagrin that in a space of three years, between 2014 and 2017, our country has experienced eight deadly gas explosions. This is aside of the notorious fire and flooding incident at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra on June 3, 2015 where nearly 130 souls were lost needlessly.
A crippling unforgettable happening which we all swore never to see happen again to us as the nation. We swore, or better still, our leaders promised us that they would put things in order so that such catastrophes would not happen to us again.
No lessons seem to have been learnt, unfortunately.
We do not seem to take safety serious. Yet when something happens, we quickly blame others. We always forget that our attitudes play major roles in the kind of disasters that we encounter on day-to-day basis.
We know from all the accounts out there in the public domain that the driver of the gas tanker, who was discharging the liquefied petroleum gas at the station where the explosion occurred, sounded those who were in the area that they should move away because the gas was leaking badly. This meant that the driver knew that what he was doing was against one of the rules of their game which admonished them not to offload when they sense gas was leaking. The gas tanker drivers know that they are not to discharge gas at night. They knew that when they are discharging, they should ensure that the area was free from any human activity. This driver breached some of the rules, thus, acts of indiscipline were clearly exhibited here.
Another case of gross indiscipline on the part of the persons around was when the driver warned people to vacate the place because of the leakage, sellers, taxi and other commercial drivers continued to look on. Allegedly, there was a first explosion yet that was not enough warning for some people to move away.
They continued to hang around while many more ran away to as faraway safety as possible. The result is the fatalities, level of injuries and destruction of properties we saw. So, you ask yourself, for how long would we continue to take things for granted?
I once worked for a corporate institution where every employee from the top to the factory floor, was made aware of the essence of safety at all times. We were taught in our everyday work life not to take safety for granted whether in our offices or walking around the factory.
Safety meetings were made compulsory on Fridays and the time was even fixed – 12 noon. Everyone, no matter what you were doing at the time, was expected to attend the departmental safety meetings, a common agenda for which would have been circulated at least 24 hours earlier and a chairperson for the meeting nominated. Attendance was recorded and minutes of the discussions were taken. For the Company’s Safety Manager.
Yes, there was a whole Safety Manager who was responsible for coordinating Friday noon safety meetings and sending warnings to departments that were not living up to expectation while quarterly prizes were given to those who exhibited consistency in attendance. Every department or office had a Safety Steward who ensured that the work environment was always safe.
A lot was learnt on safe practices not only for the work place but also for the home and being on the road either as a driver or a pedestrian. Those safety values have lived with me till today.
Unfortunately, within our society, lawlessness has become part of our everyday life to the extent that we even flout safety regulations and warnings with impunity. At fuel and LPG stations, even with the clear signages that people should not use mobile phones, we see attendants and sometimes customers using their mobile phones. People still load their petrol tanks with their vehicle engines running.
As a people, we have thrown safety away to the dogs and live as if we are insulated from accidents.
The loss of lives and properties on regrettable occasions such as we experienced last Saturday at the Atomic Junction is heart breaking. However, I would not be surprised to see bubbly life continues as if nothing happened, once all the dead are buried and pains, aches and injuries are restored to normal.
Gas would leak; mobile phones would be used at filling stations, lawlessness would reign until another explosion and fire erupt in another part of the country. That is when we would once again turn the heat on ourselves. Do we ever learn?
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