The valve that regulated movement of sludge in the plant reportedly gave way, causing gas leak

Seven workers of a textile dyeing unit at the SIPCOT Industrial Estate in Perundurai died after inhaling methane gas emanating from a valve that they were repairing on Tuesday morning. The deceased included two workers from Nepal.

Eight other workers of the mechanical section involved in the repair work were admitted to a private hospital with respiratory problems.

The valve that regulated the movement of sludge from the sedimentation tank to the filter press section in the zero discharge plant of the dyeing unit reportedly gave way, causing gas leak. This resulted in the death of Anand Kumar, Madan Kumar, Murugan, Sudakar, Sasikumar, and Ubasakthi and Subasakthi, from Nepal, who were employed as helpers.

Sources said two workers initially tried to set right the valve in the 12-foot-deep tank. When they shouted for help as the valve gave way and gas leaked, the other five stepped in to rescue them and were suffocated.

A few other workers who tried to rescue them gave up owing to foul smell. They were later admitted to a private hospital as six of them lost consciousness, police sources said.

Out of danger

Superintendent of Police N. Sibi Chakravarthy said the workers under treatment were out of danger.

After the bodies were brought to the hospital, relatives and friends of the victims demanded action against the company management.

The Chennimalai police registered a case against four persons, including company çhairman K.P. Ramasamy. Three officials — Nagendran (35), in-charge of the ETP Section; Ramanan (28), Personnel Officer; and Ranganathan (32) — were arrested. They were booked under Sections 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 337 (endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code.

A post-mortem was conducted at the Government Headquarters Hospital, Erode, and the bodies were handed over to relatives of the victims later in the day, Collector V.K. Shanmugam said.

Notice to firm

Official sources said the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health issued a notice to the company and would take action against its owner as getting into a pit and carrying out repair works without proper precautions violated safe operating procedure. The workers should have carried out the repair work with oxygen cylinder and gas masks. Also, the company could not provide medical aid immediately, official sources said. According to Divisional Fire Officer T. Mathialagan, the company did not seem to have a rapid response system for safety.

An accident, says company

Special Correspondent reports from Coimbatore:

When contacted, representatives of the company’s management said this was an accident though precautionary measures were in place. The incident would be studied to find out what went wrong and whether more preventive measures were needed.


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