Ensure safety audits and prevent chemical leakages before resuming ops: CPCB advisory to states
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has directed all the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) to ensure all their units undertake safety and hazard audits before resuming operations after lockdown restrictions, which have been imposed to contain the spread of the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, are lifted across the country.
In an advisory issued to all SPCBs and committees on Friday, a day after three industrial disasters occurred, the CPCB said they must direct all the units that manufacture, store or import of hazardous chemicals to resume their operations after Covid-19-induced lockdown restrictions are lifted and take adequate steps to prevent chemical leakage or accidents.
“Some serious cases of chemical leakages and industrial mishaps have been reported recently. In view of this all, the SPCBs should ensure immediate compliance of the advisory,” the note said.
The SPCBs will have to ensure that pollution control equipment, connectivity of online emissions monitoring systems with the CPCB and state board servers, effluent treatment plants, including safety equipment, are kept in operational conditions before resuming operations after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
“The boards shall ensure that all units take utmost care in handling hazardous chemicals by using trained manpower,” the advisory said.
“The SPCBs will closely monitor any violation of environmental norms, ensure the safety of workers and residents in the vicinity and that units comply with all conditions stipulated in the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical (Amendment) Rules, 1989, and the Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness, and Response) Rules, 1996 without fail,” it added.
“Three industrial accidents occurred on Thursday, coincidentally, when factories are reopening after relaxations from Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. One commonality among these incidents has been poor operational and maintenance practices during the lockdown and the other is a shortage of skilled staff for maintenance work. Maintaining power stations or any industries with less staff is always a risk. Such incidents in this scenario are not surprising,” industry experts said.
“The toll of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions has not only pulled the economy down, but has also put lives at risk for industrial workers and townships,” said Nivit Kumar Yadav of Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) industrial pollution unit.
“Styrene gas must be kept at a temperature below 17 degrees Celsius. However, since the Vishakhapatnam plant was under a partial shutdown mode, its maintenance activities were irregular. Another industrial disaster was reported at a paper mill in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh, when gas leaks affected the unit’s housekeeping staff. The third incident occurred at Neyveli thermal power station, when two boilers of a 210-megawatt (MW) capacity plant blasted, and 10 people sustained injuries. While these boiler units were in a running condition, poor maintenance practices due to less manpower in the plant are being suspected as the reason for the blast. Industries are in haste to restart their operations after the lockdown restrictions are lifted, which could be detrimental to workers’ safety and that of the neighbourhood. We recommend better operational guidelines for industrial plants as they get set to resume their operations,” he added.