The explosion at the fireworks factory in Kosambi, Tangerang, Banten, last week showed once again the typical aftermath of disaster here. After the tragedy, officials rush to carry out raids and confiscations. But it is all too late. Oversight should have happened before the disaster. This tragedy should not only end with punishment for the staff and management of the company, but also for the government officials who should have been overseeing them.
The Kosambi explosion was disastrous. The conflagration at Panca Buana Cahaya Sukses warehouse killed 48 people, while another 43 suffered burns. Many of the victims were children too young to have been working. The number of casualties can very well be considered as one of the worst in the world. For example, the explosion at a fireworks factory in Mexico at the end of last year killed 42.
This tragedy would not have happened if supervising officials had not been negligent. The factory had been operating for a long time. It had permits from the Tangerang Regency and Banten Province to manufacture fireworks. Questions are being asked now about the granting of these permits. The production and storage of fireworks, which are explosive, must meet strict conditions. And if these are fulfilled, there must be an oversight. So, the question is: how could the storage of such dangerous substances continue without proper oversight, resulting in the explosion?
The police suspect that the fire started when Subarna, an employee, was welding near the firework materials. Subarna has been named as a suspect, along with Andri Hartono and Indra Liyono, respectively the company’s director of operations and the owner. But the investigation must not stop with them. The Tangerang administration must determine why oversight by its officials was so lax.
One clear sign of this laxness was the arbitrary way the dangerous chemicals were stored. There is also the matter of the evacuation route requirements that were not adhered to. As a result, many people were trapped inside the factory and could not be saved. There were also possible indications of breaches of the Manpower Law, because many of the victims were child workers.
The Tangerang Manpower Agency claims that it is not easy to monitor its areas of responsibility, saying that there are 14,327 companies, but only 71 oversight officials- far less than the ideal figure of 247. Staff shortages are a problem, but this is no excuse. If there are not enough officials, the Agency should prioritize the monitoring of companies producing goods categorized as hazardous.
The procedures for the granting of permits to factories producing dangerous goods must be made stricter. Unfortunately, the regulations are too flexible. For example, the 2008 National Police Regulation on permits for the storage of fireworks does not contain provisions for environmental safety. And there is no need for permission from local people, despite the fact that even animal husbandry companies need such consent.
Another regulation is Law No. 1/1970 on Workplace Safety, which is now out of date. Under this law, the punishment for companies in breach of health and safety rules are very lenient. Violators can only be fined Rp100,000 or jailed for three months. Therefore, the Kosambi tragedy should spur revisions of regulations that are too soft on companies that store or produce dangerous goods.