Acetylene leak may have caused blast on ONGC ship in Cochin Shipyard

The scene inside the Cochin shipyard moments after the blast on the ONGC ship on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The “tendency to bypass safety procedures and the overconfidence of workers” might have triggered Tuesday’s in the Cochin Shipyard, suggests a preliminary probe undertaken by safety experts, according to officials of the Department of Factories and Boilers, which investigates industrial accidents. Five workers were killed in the blast and fire.

The safety culture had improved over the years in industrial units and firms due to inspections and audit by safety teams. Still, there was the possibility that workers or contractors bypassed safety norms, leading to the accident, said a senior official of the department.

Department director P. Pramod, who was among those who inspected the ship’s compartment where the blast took place, told The Hindu that it appeared that a huge “blast wave” occurred due to a momentary explosion since multiple compartments were affected.

Stored for welding work

“A preliminary inspection points to a leak in the huge quantity of acetylene that was being stored [for welding work]. It is inflammable in the 3% to 100% range [meaning it triggers an explosion even when oxygen is absent],” he said.

Workers generally took away the cutting torch made of brass (used for welding) after night work, since it was costly. They then wrapped and closed or sealed the rubber tube. A leak could happen if the tube was improperly closed, he noted.

Quoting workers, Mr. Pramod said that one of them left (the compartment) after smelling acetylene. “They said the explosion occurred just as he was returning to the place. It is possible that the explosion occurred as welding began in the vicinity, using another cutting torch.”

Speaking of the after-effect of the explosion caused by acetylene, he said toxic gases are formed when the compound (comprising carbon and hydrogen) burns. “This often leads to oxygen being displaced, causing death by suffocation. A detailed probe report is awaited in three days, after conducting more inspections, going through findings in the post-mortem report and speaking to more workers, contractor and the vessel’s owner.”

Probe team

A team led by a joint director and chemical Inspector of the department were conducting the probe. Arun V.K., Resident joint director based at the shipyard, said workers and supervisors at the yard were highly skilled and had years of experience. “Moreover, they are briefed daily on safety and related aspects. A detailed probe will throw light on what led to the blast,” Mr. Pramod added.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 12:09:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/acetylene-leak-may-have-triggered-blast-on-ongc-ship/article22746460.ece

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