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Government issues safety guidelines to restart factories post lockdown after Styrene gas leak incident in Vishakhapatnam

The NDMA has issued generic safety guidelines for industries and workers, as well as specific industry-based protocols such as product storage, manufacturing, and raw material storage

Three days after Styrene gas leak in a polystyrene plant in Vishakhapatnam on Thursday killed 11 people and made hundreds of people ill, the govt has issued safety guidelines to be followed while restarting factories after the lockdown. On Sunday, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued guidelines to resume operations in industries, post the nationwide Coronavirus lockdown. The incident at the LG Polymers factory had happened while the plant was trying to restart after being shut for more than a month due to the Coronavirus Lockdown.

The Indian economy had taken a major hit during the lockdown, a crucial step towards ensuring social distancing in public and checking the spread of the Chinese virus. Now the government has decided to slowly relax the restrictions so that the economy can be brought back to the track.

In its official order shared by Union Cabinet Minister, Piyush Goyal, the NDMA has asked all industries to “not try to achieve production targets” but instead focus on ensuring implementation of safety protocols. The order read, “As a result (of the lockdown), some of the manufacturing facilities, pipelines, valves, etc. may have residual chemicals, which may pose risk.”

Generic Safety Protocols

The NDMA has issued generic safety guidelines for industries and workers, as well as specific industry-based protocols such as product storage, manufacturing, and raw material storage. The employers have been advised to make the employees sensitive to abnormal smell, leakage, smoke, and other hazardous signs such that they raise alarm immediately

Industries have been recommended to seek the help of District administration in case of difficulties in managing backward linkages. They have been directed to ensure lockout and tag out procedures on a daily basis, amidst the Coronavirus outbreak. Industries have also been instructed to inspect all equipment during the restart phase.

Industry Specific-Safety Protocols

For industries dealing with the storage of raw materials, they have been advised to check containers, large vessels, pipelines, vaults, and conveyor belts for possible wear and tear during the lockdown. Chemical stability of stored HAZMAT chemicals must be ensured before using it for various processes. Abnormalities such as unfamiliar smell or sound should also be flagged at the earliest.

The NDMA has instructed industries involved in manufacturing processes to run a safety audit before initiating activities. Moreover, equipment such as furnaces, heat exchangers, boilers, pipelines must be checked for possible wear and tear while the functionality of temperature and pressure gauges ought to be tested.

Manufacturing industries have been specifically directed to undergo three crucial tests, namely tightness test, service test, and vacuum hold tests. For industries involved in product storage, the NDMA has advised checking storage facilities for damage.

Safety Guidelines for Workers

Industries must implement a sanitisation routine every 2-3 hours to ensure safety of workers. It is mandatory to check temperature of workers, twice a day. Employees with symptoms of Coronavirus have been barred from working. It is the responsibility of the management to provide sanitisers, personal protective equipment such as masks and glove to the workers.

As per MHA guidelines, administrative and managerial staff should work at 1/3rd capacity. Plus, it must ensured that no equipment used by one worker is shared by the other. Factories also need to provide accomodation to isolate worker, if such a need arose.

Industrial Mishap in Visakhapatnam

The safety protocols outlined by the NDMA come at the backdrop of Styrene gas leak from LG Polymers plant at RR Venkatapuram village in Andhra Pradesh that has affected 5000 people and killed 11. Reportedly, due to the failure of the refrigeration unit, the temperature of the tanks rose. The Styrene started evaporating and its gas built up inside the tank. When the plant prepared to resume operation after relaxations were announced in Coronavirus lockdown, the gas evaporated from the tanks and spread in the atmosphere.

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