Just two days after an LG polymers plant reported a gas leak that killed as many as 12 and left several hundred hospitalised in Vizag, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Saturday reiterated protocols that needed to followed in case of chemical disasters.
Even as the Union home ministry has cleared the decks for factories and industrial units to resume operations after a nearly 55-day lockdown due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, the disaster authority has asked for all industrial operators to exercise extra caution with unused units likely to cause similar disasters.
While the NDMA has reiterated its guidelines on chemical disasters and their management, it stated that, “When Lockout/Tagout procedures are not in place, many energy sources can prove to be hazardous to operators/supervisors who are servicing or maintaining electrical, mechanical or chemical equipment."
The authority also added, “When heavy machinery and equipment are not maintained periodically, they can become dangerous for the operators/engineers. Combustible liquids, contained gaseous substances, open wires, conveyor belts and automated vehicles make manufacturing facilities a high-risk environment. Improper enforcement of safety codes and improperly labelled chemicals can further pose serious health hazards."
With the styrene gas leak leaving LG polymers to face the heat from the National Green Tribunal on Saturday, the NDMA asserted that “While restarting the unit, consider the first week as the trial or test run period; ensure all safety protocols; and not try to achieve high production targets."
The authority’s guidelines are also more relevant with factories resuming work after a hiatus of close to six weeks.
“To minimize the risk it is important that employees who work on specific equipment are sensitized and made aware of the need to identify abnormalities like strange sounds or smell, exposed wires, vibrations, leaks, smoke, abnormal wobbling, irregular grinding or other potentially hazardous signs which indicate the need for an immediate maintenance or if required shutdown," the NDMA added.
While factories have also been instructed by the Union home ministry to exercise due precaution and social distancing measures to combat the spread of covid-19, the NDMA added, “Especially during the Covid-19 times, ensure all lockout and tagout procedures are in place on a daily basis; Inspection of all equipment as per the safety protocols during the restart phase. In case the industry has any difficulty in managing crucial backward linkages that may be critical for their safe functioning, they should approach the local district administration for specific assistance."
At the same time, the Centre and District Magistrates have also tied up to ensure that in such instances, the industrial unit may be facilitated to run their end to end operations, in the overall interests of industrial security.