Industrial safety: No lessons learnt
Industrial accidents are not rare phenomena; but the frequency with which they are happening in the port city of Visakhapatnam in North Andhra makes...
Industrial accidents are not rare phenomena; but the frequency with which they are happening in the port city of Visakhapatnam in North Andhra makes us wonder whether safety standards are being followed by heavy and medium industries located in and around the city.
The latest to happen was the blast in the cooling tower of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited’s (HPCL) refinery on Friday that claimed at least 10 lives so far and many more were either battling for life with 80 per cent burns or missing. By the time the final figure emerges, the death toll may go up since the survival rate among third-degree-burn victims will not be high and the missing workers are presumed dead under tonnes of collapsed cooling tower debris. As usual, an inquiry has been ordered, ministers and officials, both from the Centre and State, have visited the accident site, compensation has been announced for the kin of the accident victims, and the game of fixing responsibility has begun.
Notwithstanding the protests by HPCL workers against the management’s attitude in conveying the information to the families of those involved in the blast and accusations of lack of timely help, what should concern us is: Why has Vizag become more prone to mishaps than any other major industrial hub in the country? Is it because industrial safety norms are not strictly adhered to or overlooked compromising workers’ safety? A look at the series of industrial accidents in and near Vizag in recent months shows little has been learnt from the earlier ones.
HPCL Visakh Refinery’s safety record comes under a cloud from time to time. On May 16 this year, Crude Distillation Unit 3 suffered damage due to a fire. Luckily, there were no casualties. But an explosion in 1997 killed 60 people, raising many eyebrows about the refinery’s safety procedures. Since that time, apparently, a number of steps have been taken to minimize/avert accidents.