Even a minor deviation could result in the worst accident: official

The administration, under the then Collector M. Balaji, had raided scores of firecracker units in Virudhunagar district for violations of safety norms last year.

Inspections were conducted in August, when the production of firecrackers usually peaks, to meet the demand of the market across the country for the Deepavali season. Several teams of officials drawn from the Departments of Revenue, Police, Health, Fire and Rescue Services and Labour Department raided the crackers units.

Officials imposed a permanent ban on production on 29 units during inspections between August and October. “Orders for permanent closure were issued to these units for there were major violations, in terms of safety norms. More number of persons was employed in each working shed than the permissible number. The action was more to ensure safety of lives and limbs of workers,” an official said.

Besides, those units that had stocked explosives in excess quantity than the permitted level were sealed, he added. Temporary closure orders were issued to 32 units for minor violations, such as improper maintenance of the drying yard and poor disposal of waste in September and October. These units were allowed to function after the violations pointed out were set rectified. The officials issued show cause notices to other units that required minor corrections.

Besides, at least six godowns were sealed and firecrackers worth several crores seized for overstocking finished goods, in violation of safety norms. “Only sustained enforcement will help in infusing fear and discipline among the units to follow safety norms. Otherwise, such accidents continue,” the official added. A handful of people were also arrested for running illegal firecracker units in the district.

An official from the Explosives Department said several units in the district had not seen any accident for decades together. “It is all because they adhere to the rules strictly. Even a minor deviation might result in the worst accident,” the official said.

Sivakasi and its surroundings meet a majority of the nation’s demand for firecrackers for Deepavali. With around 700 licensed units, and frequent fire accidents becoming inevitable, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in November announced the setting up of a Centre of Excellence at the Government hospital in Sivakasi to treat victims of burn injuries. The then Collector had proposed to establish a superspecialty, 20-bed burns ward at a cost of Rs. 4 crore with advanced trauma care and intensive care units. The proposal was also for appointment of plastic surgeons, anaesthesiologists, and other staff.

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