Accident shifts focus to poor safety practices of daily wage workers
Tambaram: Two men, both in their early twenties, were crushed to death on the spot when they came under a shower of rocks at a stone quarry in Tirusulam near Pallavaram on Wednesday.
The victims, V.Varadarajan, 21 and S.Navaneethakrishnan, 23, were working with a drilling machine when the accident took place. Varadarajan had married only a week ago.
More than 500 workers were engaged in Quarry No.5 of Thalakkananchery, Tirusulam. They were involved in various tasks, including breaking stones, segregating them in different sizes and loading them on to lorries. Vararadajan and Navaneethakrishnan were operating the drilling machine.
A little past noon, they had climbed about 10 feet from the ground and were perched dangerously on the rocks and were drilling them jointly, when huge chunks of rocks came down from about 100 feet above. They were killed on the spot.
Both of them belonged to Sankarankoil in Tirunelveli district. They were paid at the rate of Rs. 18 for every one foot of the rocks drilled. They would scale up the hillocks and perch themselves dangerously on the rocks while drilling.
The only safety feature was a rope tied around their waist and attached to the surface above the layer of rocks.
Another worker Vairamuthu was injured and rushed to a private hospital in Pazhavanthangal and later referred to the Government General Hospital in Chennai.
As news about the incident spread, work came to a halt in the four other quarries in Tirusulam.
Fearing trouble, all the lorries transporting stones left the quarry sites. Eye-witnesses told reporters that most of the workers engaged in collecting the rocks had just settled down for lunch, a little distance away from the spot when the accident took place.
Elected representatives from Tirusulam village panchayat, who came to the spot, attributed the accident to poor safety measures in stone quarries. After overnight rains, some portions of the quarrying sites had become loose and hence the rocks came down all of a sudden, workers at the site said.
A section of the male workers were visibly angry, alleging that owners and contractors were focused only on profits, paying very little attention to their safety. Normally, blasting should not be carried after 3 p.m., but in some sites, it took place even after sunset.
And it was mandatory on the part of government officials to carry out a thorough inspection of the quarries before work resumed every morning.
And the ‘step by step’ pattern of stone quarrying, an important aspect of safety, was simply forgotten, workers said, who preferred not to be named. Pazhavanthangal police are investigating.