People treat such fire accidents as a routine and life is as usual in this dry belt

An accident took place at Parasakthi Fireworks at Konampatti on the Sivakasi-Sattur Road on Thursday, claiming three lives.

Another accident on Sunday claimed five lives at New Rathna Fireworks at Naranapuram near here. A few days back, two persons were killed when they carried out maintenance work in a shed in a fireworks factory. All incidents took place in a span of a week.

The frequency of accidents is alarming but there are no signs of any alarm at the nearby villages or in the town. People treat such fire accidents as a routine and life is as usual in this dry belt. However, officials and the government machinery could not keep quiet.

Soon after a major fire accident at Om Sakthi Fireworks at Mudalipatti last year, in which over 40 persons were killed and more than 70 injured, the State government announced a slew of measures such as stringent enforcement of rules and regulations, improvement of roads and establishment of a sophisticated burns ward at the Government Hospital here.

The burns ward has almost come up and all the sanctioned posts are filled and officials have increased the number of inspections.

V.Periasamy, Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories, Virudhunagar Division, who inspected a fireworks unit on Saturday, told the women workers there to wear only cotton saris.

He guided this reporter around various sheds in the unit to show the importance of working only in a shed, the importance of having a thick rubber sheet on the floor and a door mat outside the shed to prevent accumulation of dust inside the shed to avoid friction.

He stressed the need to restrict the number of workers in each shed. No iron objects such as nails or knives should be kept near the work spot. Mixing of chemicals should be done before 10 a.m. so that high temperature does not cause any harm, he said and added that these were the basic norms.

But in the factory where the accident took place on Sunday, there were many violations: the workers were found working under a tree, 12 men were working together, there were iron objects all around the work spot and the workers were mixing chemicals beyond the stipulated time.

Moreover, they were not permitted to work on holidays like Sunday. If necessary, the management should have either intimated the Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories or obtained permission from him. But they do not seem to have followed this norm.

B. Sundaram, Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories, Sivakasi Division, said they were imparting training to workers in association with Kaliswari College by explaining the nature of chemicals and the college teachers elucidated the method of mixing them.

A Safety Training Centre was coming up near ESI Hospital here with three Inspectors of Factories and one Deputy Chief Inspector of Factories, he said. Adequate land had been acquired and the Public Works Department (PWD) had been entrusted with the work of constructing it. Once it was ready, more persons could be trained, he added.

Self-regulation

A.P.Singh, Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives, and R.Venugopal, Controller of Explosives, who inspected the accident spot at Naranapuram on Sunday, said self-regulation was the need of the hour. There were over 750 fireworks units in and around Sivakasi. “Physical inspection of each unit every day is quite impossible,” Mr. Singh said when asked whether the shortage of inspection staff could be attributed to the increase in fire accidents.

In fact, licences of 108 units were suspended for six months and licences of three units were cancelled during the last financial year.

Yet, violations continue to take place and there seems to be no end to fire accidents.