Atchutapuram gas leak reveals pathetic industrial safety culture: HRF

The HRF members opined that the medical and health facilities at the SEZ and various industrial units for over 60,000 workers are deplorably inadequate

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  4 Jun 2022 9:14 AM GMT
Atchutapuram gas leak reveals pathetic industrial safety culture: HRF

Visakhapatnam: The ammonia gas leak at the Atchutapuram Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) on 3 June that affected many women employees has raised concerns about the pathetic industrial safety culture in and around Visakhapatnam and Anakapalli districts. The Human Rights Forum (HRF) pointed out the precarious occupational safety and working conditions in industrial units and the need to put in place effective and concrete corrective measures.

"The authorities concerned have failed to ensure safe workplaces for employees and those residing around industrial establishments. What is of extreme disquiet is that even 24 hours after the incident, there is still no official clarification by authorities concerned about exactly where and how the leakage occurred," said HRF Visakhapatnam district president M. Sarat.

Lack of proper medical facilities

The HRF members opined that the medical and health facilities at the SEZ and various industrial units for over 60,000 workers are deplorably inadequate. It may be noted that an ammonia leak at the Brandix Apparel plant had made the women employees rush out in panic after being exposed to toxic fumes. Many of them, including several pregnant women, experienced nausea and struggled to breathe. They waited for hours before they were provided medical treatment. They were treated at several clinics in Atchutapuram which were not equipped with the requisite equipment or medical personnel to handle such an eventuality of toxic exposure. As a result, they were then rushed to hospitals in Anakapalle and Visakhapatnam.

Need for industrial safety

Two years have passed since lethal styrene vapours leaked out of LG Polymers in the city with horrific and fatal consequences. Yet, little seems to have been done to ensure better safety in industrial establishments. Following the LG Polymers leak, the High-Power Expert Committee was appointed by the state government to make important recommendations, including the need for a comprehensive industrial safety audit of all hazardous industries in and around Vizag. "To date, no such audit appears to have been undertaken. The functioning of industries clearly poses grave hazards within and outside the plants, as regular accidents bear it out. These are the result of criminal negligence by promoters and serious lapses by regulatory and industrial safety bodies like the AP Pollution Control Board and the Factories Inspectorate," said Mr. Sarat.

HRF blames regulatory bodies

The HRF said the regulatory bodies do not comply with inspection schedules and fail to carry out periodic and surprise inspections to detect lapses in safety and non-adherence to norms by industries. "Primarily, these bodies lack the necessary competence to identify safety issues and enforce and process safety management. In the present gas leak case, they lack the ability to investigate an accident and identify the source and causes of the leak," said the HRF member.

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