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Following lab blaze, IISER set to appoint Fire and Safety Officer

Besides, the institute is holding a three-day fire safety training session, being conducted by an external agency starting Tuesday, for all doctoral students, faculty members, staff, research assistants and post-doctoral associates of the Chemistry department.

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune |
Updated: August 11, 2021 8:29:16 am
Following lab blaze, IISER set to appoint Fire and Safety OfficerOn July 16, a fire was reported from one of the organic chemistry laboratories located on the second floor of the main IISER building.

Three weeks after a major fire broke out at a laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, the institute’s administration is planning to rope in services of a fire safety officer to avert a repeat of such incidents in the future.

Besides, the institute is holding a three-day fire safety training session, being conducted by an external agency starting Tuesday, for all doctoral students, faculty members, staff, research assistants and post-doctoral associates of the Chemistry department.

The development follows suggestions proposed by an internal Safety Committee, comprising faculty members from different departments of the institute.

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On July 16, a fire was reported from one of the organic chemistry laboratories located on the second floor of the main IISER building.

No casualty was reported in the incident, which reportedly originated from the fume hood at the lab. The fire affected a few other labs located in the same wing — all of which have remained suspended for operations ever since. Two committees, including an external one, are investigating the matter and the exact extent of damage remains uncertain, officials said.

“In the wake of the fire accident, which occurred despite all safety norms in place, the institute is working on making even stricter safety rules. To help the safety committee in this endeavour and to advise the institute on improvements in safety matters across the campus, the institute is planning to employ a Fire and Safety Officer. We hope this will offer us a new perspective and will further enhance safe practices on the campus,” the IISER Pune administration stated in a written reply to The Indian Express.

All departments at the institute have been instructed to carry out internal safety reviews.

Since its establishment in 2006, IISER Pune has had an internal Safety Committee entrusted with conducting laboratory safety training sessions and ensuring implementation of safety guidelines.

But with the institute witnessing its first-ever fire accident last month, this committee has recommended the service of an expert Fire and Safety Officer.

Another suggestion proposed by this committee was conducting a fire safety training session.

“Even though IISER Pune members have received this training earlier, the session is expected to serve as a refresher course and help researchers return to laboratories with confidence,” an official said.

Since the fire accident, nearly 50 students, mainly from the Chemistry department, have been temporarily relocated to other labs within the campus on a short and long-term basis. Their return to their original workspaces will be determined on the completion of repair and restoration works, which are presently underway at the labs affected by the fire, officials said. Electricity supply, power back up and other arrangements are nearing partial completion, they added.

“We are currently inspecting the functioning of instruments, fume hoods and other essential requirements before research work can resume safely in the original locations. We are hopeful that the relocated students, too, will be able to occupy their original labs in the coming months,” the institute’s reply further stated.

It is learnt that senior office bearers at IISER Pune have underlined the need for promoting a culture of safety among students and staff, and are currently reexamining all existing safety protocols.

The recommendations, once received from the two committees, will be suitably implemented, officials said.

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