The missing extinguisher

This page in:

Fire_extinguisher_3 Imagine yourself shopping for a simple product such as a fire-extinguisher. Would you check, before buying it, whether it is certified? Most people I polled said "no"; if it is on the shelf, it means that it satisfies the (sophisticated) rules and regulations set for its production.

Well, this assumption has been challenged during our recent work with the Tajikistan Fire Fighting Service.

While drafting together fire safety checklists to be used during inspections of small and medium enterprises, we came across this requirement: "the fire extinguisher needs to be certified."

No problem, at first we agreed with the need to provide consumers with the highest possible safety standards. But after digging a bit more into the issue, we discovered a couple of interesting facts:

  • Unfortunately no existing company in Tajikistan produces or sells "certified" extinguishers; and
  • None of those on the market have the required certificate.

So what should the consumers and the entrepreneurs do? We turned this question to Goskomstandard - the agency responsible for standardization and certification in Tajikistan, also known as Tajikstandard.

The answer was simple: in order to comply with the regulation, consumers should bring in their extinguishers and have them (one-by-one!!) certified. If they don't, they may be punished under the "Fire Regulations."

This example shows some of the impediments that the private sector has to fight against in the former Soviet countries:

1. Reverse responsibility: the reason why standards and certificates are normally required is precisely to protect the consumers. Shifting the responsibility and the burden from the agency to the consumers is contrary to this basic principle;

2. (Un)feasibility: Geskomstandard's answer is impracticable. Businesses don't have the time and money to have each product certified;

And then comes the third point, directly following from the first two:

3. Punishment versus compliance: the regulators are more interested in the administration of fines for non-compliance, than the work to reduce risks. Nobody seems to mind that fire extinguishers in Tajikistan are sold without the proper certification, and, so far, no action has been taken to change it.

In such an environment, many rules and regulations have become obstacles to business activity in Tajikistan, and are behind the country's low rank, 153 out of 178, on the ease of doing business in the 2008 report.

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000