A question mark hangs over safety at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant with accidents occurring at regular intervals.

They are so frequent that not a single week has passed without a major accident causing heavy loss to the company thereby dampening the spirit of the workforce.

Tuesday's blast was the latest which will sully the image of VSP to a large extent. The incident put Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, the corporate entity of VSP, in a state of shock at a time when the management is stepping up efforts to expand the capacity further from 6.3 million tonnes to 11 million tonnes with an investment of Rs. 22,000 crore in four to five years.

Though different reasons are attributed for the sudden flooding of hot metal along with slag in the newly opened blast furnace-3, the ferocious speed with which it engulfed the huge earth moving equipment deployed to clear the slag which got stuck in the furnace burning the two workers from Bihar to death has shocked many.

Critical areas

Enquiries revealed that too much dependence on contract labour even in critical areas of work is leading to certain compromises on safety. Another point in question is that employees and officers sent abroad for training on blast furnace management are managing to get posting in sinter plant and other plants. A posting in any three of the blast furnaces in VSP is considered a risky job.

In fact, the power supply system completely collapsed a few days ago following which the captive power plant also tripped. This led to production loss for several hours.

“Recently 30 officers and two employees were sent abroad for training on blast furnace and on their return they were posted in another department,” said CITU leader V. Dhanaraju.

The unions have several times asked the management to take better safety initiatives. “After accidents the management constitute committees to probe but after that the reports are buried in cold storage,” alleged Steel Plant Employees' Union general secretary D. Adinarayana.

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