A week after two students died in a fire at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), all chemical laboratories under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) are undergoing a safety review to prevent accidents.
“Every laboratory has equipment, computers and chemicals. We are putting emphasis on the (safety review of) chemicals,” said Tulsi Mukherjee, head of chemistry division, BARC.
“Such accidents can happen in any lab. Besides, checking is routine and done periodically. But we want to take all precautionary measures.”
There are approximately 100 chemical laboratories under the DAE. All unused chemicals in BARC’s chemistry labs, some of them dating back to 1963, will be disposed of.
“There are many nooks and corners in our labs with chemicals that are no longer needed. We are going to get rid of them,” said Mukherjee.
A decision to minimise the stock of chemicals has also been taken.
While new recruits undergo safety training conducted by the BARC fire brigade twice a year, the process happens a few months after they join.
This system is now going to change. The BARC will now initiate training immediately after students join the department.
On December 29, a fire broke out in the modular laboratory in the third floor of a building. Research students, Umang Singh from Mumbai and Partha Bag from Kolkata, were killed in the fire.
Various agencies, including two in-house committees, are investigating the incident and will take about two weeks for the reports. The laboratory has also lost huge amounts of data and research work.
“Even the back-up files have been destroyed. It is next to impossible to resurrect them,” said Mukherjee.