For the first time ever, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) has drafted women officers for operational duties with the aim of dispelling the notion that jobs involving night shifts cannot be done by women. At least 11 women chemical engineers took charge as shift-in-charge and panel operators in various units of BPCL’s operations department at its Mumbai and Kochi refineries on May 15.
“Earlier due to certain statutory obligations, women were not allowed to work during night shifts and as the Operations Department works round the clock, there were only male shift in-charges and panel operators,” said R.R. Nair, Executive Director, Human Resources. The chemical engineers were recruited with the change in statutory rules, he said.
“The women who were recruited were trained for six months for the post of shift-in-charge as well as panel operator. Their basic job involves operating the unit and solving problems in the unit,” said Asawari Kelkar, Deputy General Manager, Utilities Operations, who mentored the women. K. Shreya who heads the Hydro Cracker Operations Department of the Mumbai refinery said the women were introduced to the workings of the unit and a major part of the training consisted of preparing them for the night shift. “All these officers were very proactive and absolutely up for taking up the responsibility, which made the entire process easy,” she said.
Along with statutory changes, BPCL has brought about operational reforms as well to ensure the safety of the women officers working in the night shift.
“As a part of the decision, women security guards have been recruited for night shifts along with cars with women drivers to ensure safe commute for these officers. Women’s washrooms have been built and closed circuit TV cameras have been installed in various units. In our opinion, this is a step in the right direction as we look forward to recruiting more women in this department in the years to come,” Mr. Nair said.
Nayanika Panickar, who works as a shift-in-charge in the Catalytic Cracking Unit, said fortunately, her family had accepted her job involving the night shift quite well. “My grandfather used to have shift duty and my parents relate my job to his shift duty schedule. Irrespective of what society has to say about women taking up the night shift, the support of my family is more than enough for me to continue with this post,” she said.
P. Sahitya, another engineer who took charge this month in the Fluid Catalytic Cracking unit, said the company has been very supportive and takes care of their needs. “The experience has been great so far. All the arrangements made for us have ensured a comfortable working environment. It feels great to challenge the social stigma associated with girls working late at night,” said Hansika Gupta from the Hydro Cracker unit.