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Explosion and fire at Vizag steel plant

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TOI reports a major industrial accident:

In the worst-ever accident in the history of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), 16 people, including general manager Kalsi Naik, were burnt alive following a huge explosion in the recently commissioned oxygen plant in the steel melting shop II unit on Wednesday night. This is the second accident in a span of one month. Two people had died in a furnace blast on May 1.

The blast took place at around 8.45pm when the officials were conducting a trial run of the recently commissioned oxygen plant. The impact was such that several cars parked outside the oxygen plant were flung 500 metres.

Most of the victims were contract workers. At the time of the blast, at least 31 workers, including GM and DGM-rank officials, were on duty.

After the massive blast, a huge fire raged across the plant. The oxygen plant was completely gutted as flames swept through the unit. All the workers and officials present in the oxygen plant were charred to death. The injured were taken to Seven Hills Hospital.

Over the last four years, work has been on to increase the capacity of the plant. The plant currently has a capacity of 3.2 million tonnes and the authorities are planning to increase it to 6.3 million tonnes.

In a separate report, TOI lists many past accidents at the plant:

May 22, 2012: A conveyor belt carrying raw material to new blast furnace completely melted at the sinter plant after it caught fire. Production loss Rs 1 crore.

May 1, 2012: Two contract labourers burnt alive and another two sustained serious burns following a blast in the newly- commissioned blast furnace III.

Feb 6, 2012: Huge quantity of spillage of hot metal in the steel melting shop (SMS), loss Rs 1 crore

April 10, 2011: Major fire broke out in SMS due to liquid steel fall from the ladle carrying out about 140 tonnes, loss Rs 60 crore

April 14, 2011: Huge quantity of hot metal spillage in continuous casting department of SMS, 140 tonnes of liquid still fell on the ground

April 17, 2011: Major fire in the raw material handling plant, causing damage to the three conveyor belts, loss Rs 20 crore

May 1, 2011: 48-hour production disruption due to twisting of a conveyor belt that transports raw material to blast furnace

June 18, 2011: Fire erupted when hot coke fell on one of the two conveyor belts in the coke drying cooling plant, loss Rs 15 lakh

The Hindu Business Line adds:

The steel plant’s capacity has been hiked from 3 million tonnes to 6.3 million tonnes and problems are cropping up at the newly-commissioned units built as a part of the expansion project. The union allege that the management has not deployed skilled persons at the units and taken the requisite safety precautions.

The major accident could not have come at a worse time for the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, as Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd is planning to go in for an initial public offering. The market conditions are not conducive and the series of accidents in the recent months are making it very difficult for the company.

India Today adds:

The Andhra Pradesh government has ordered an inquiry under the Factories Act into the blast that killed 11 persons in Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

Initially the death toll was put at 15 but the steel plant authorities have confirmed 11 deaths so far.

Eight persons are undergoing treatment at hospitals. The injured include VSP General Manager (projects) D.S. Kalsi.

Ten of the victims have so far been identified. The dead include two deputy general managers of construction wing.

Here is a link to the web site of RINL Vishakhapatnam. Please leave a comment on this post when you see any acknowledgement of the accident on their front page news ticker.

June 18, 2012

Hindu Business Line reported:

The recent fire at Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd’s Vizag Steel (Visakhapatnam Steel Plant), which claimed the lives of 15 employees , was waiting to happen, said the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE).

Calling for the setting up of a regulatory body to supervise, enforce, train, enhance disclosure and improve the overall safety performance of the steel sector, the CSE said its recent green ratings for Indian steel majors had drawn the attention of Vizag Steel to its abysmal safety record.

Business Today adds:

The steel plant, ironically a Navaratna company, was rated the last in the recently released green rating for the steel industry by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

It was during an appraisal of the plant that glaring safety lapses emerged. These shortcomings were brought to the notice of the VSP management in August 2011 and details of the safety audit were also shared with the company. Ten workers were killed in different accidents and a total of 159 accidents took place at the VSP between 2007 and 2010.

Referring to three accidents in a span of eight days in April 2011, the report had noted that “it shows that occupational safety needs to be overhauled and improved particularly for the contractual staff.”

As a number of contractual and daily wage labourers are employed in hazardous working areas, their health and safety aspects also need to be given equal importance, the CSE said. CSE officials noted that most senior and middle level managers of the VSP were either not aware of safety precautions or chose to ignore them. The technical knowledge on safety management was also found to be poor.

Before the result of the rating was announced earlier this month, the technical advisory panel of the CSE again visited the plant in Vizag. The panel included senior steel industry and pollution control experts.

“During this visit on May 12 and 13, concerns of poor safety conditions were conveyed to highest management of the company, including the chairman, because we found that the management had not taken any remedial measures on the lapses we had pointed out in August 2011,” a CSE official said.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

June 14, 2012 at 1:42 am

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