An expert on industrial safety says simple tips to workers can prevent many deaths

A major fire accident leading to the death of one person and injuries to more than 15 workers in the Bhushan Steel Plant in Dhenkanal district has once again brought to the fore the non-adherence to safety protocols on industrial premises .

Since 2009, number of deaths reported from industrial premises has been constantly crossing 100 mark. Had reporting mechanism been foolproof, the number of deaths could have been much higher.

Although one person died due to powerful explosion during commissioning of a slag granulation plant (SGP) in blast furnace-II of Bhushan Steel in Dhenkanal district, previously deaths had occurred due to some ‘silly’ causes.

More than 100 deaths have occurred after workers fell from height and close to 100 workers died on being hit by speeding trucks on industrial premises – which is considered to be a restricted zone.

These causes point finger towards non-adherence to safety protocols. Experts said Odisha has catapulted itself from non-industrialised State to industrialised region in a very short-time.

The culture of safety among industrial houses, government machinery and human resource has not taken place at the same pace.

Safety training

As many as 27 institutes in Odisha provide training on industrial safety. But the collective capacity of these institutes is grossly inadequate keeping in mind the number of ‘new’ workers being inducted in industrial premises every year.

Sources in the Directorate of Factories and Boilers said companies with which primary responsibility of imparting industrial safety training to workers lies also failed in its task. Many workers who were farmers and daily wage earners on their previous assignments were landing directly in the industrial operation.

An expert on industrial safety said simple tips to workers prior to their engagement in industrial operation could prevent many deaths.

“Odisha Factories Rules 1950 has lucidly described the responsibilities of different stakeholder to prevent accident. If provisions are followed with due diligence, the industrial accidents would come down by 80 per cent,” said S. K. Bhuyan, principal of School of Post Diploma in Industrial Safety in Bhubaneswar-based Multi Disciplinary Centre on Safety, Health and Environment.

Mr. Bhuyan, who was formerly heading safety unit of Rourkela Steel Plant, said a change in safety culture, mindset of promoter of industries and strengthening of monitoring mechanism was needed to check industrial accidents.

Conviction

So many deaths had been reported from industrial premises, but there was hardly any conviction of company authorities even though the Directorate of Factories and Boilers has been filing cases during the past many years.

CAG warning

Similarly, a couple of years ago the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had warned the State government on lack of enforcement of safety rules on industrial premises.

The CAG had pointed out that as per Rule 5 of Orissa Factories (Control of Major Accident Hazard) Rules, 2001 and instructions (September 1997) issued by the Director of Factories and Boilers, inspectors were to inspect factories at least once in a calendar year and enforce the rules and procedures. Factories with hazardous processes and dangerous operations need to be inspected at least four times a year . However, test check of 430 of 1560 inspection reports in the offices of Rayagada, Rourkela and Sambalpur revealed shortfall in inspections ranging from 7 to 18 per cent during 2006-08. Out of 3,276 inspections required to be conducted during 2006-08 in respect of dangerous operations, only 993 inspections were conducted leading to shortfall in inspections of 2283 (70 per cent), the CAG said.