Mishaps fuel doubts over SAIL's safety record
The state-run steel producer's safety record in the run up to its mega capacity expansion seems to be falling short of expectations.
Three major accidents in the last six months at Bhilai, IISCO Burnpur and the latest at Durgapur on Sunday night have raised a number of questions on SAIL's operational safety as it races against time to commission capacity that will raise its hot metal output to 24 million tonnes per an num by March 2015 from 14 mtpa now, at an investment of Rs 70,000 crore.
The reason for the death of two workers hired by a contractor at the Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP) wasn't immediately known. The workers who were found unconscious near a coal dust injection distribution unit in the evening were rushed to the DSP Main Hospital where both died at around 10 pm.
"These were two experienced people. There was no gas leakage in the vicinity. No apparent abnormality was found in the area," DSP Chief Executive PK Singh told ET. "We have formed an inquiry committee comprising general manager (services) and DGM (safety) to investigate the proba ble reasons and give us a report within a week."
According to a SAIL news release, DSP "is making all efforts" to find out the real reason for the incident.
Among the other two accidents, Bhilai Steel Plant, one of SAIL's crown jewels, suffered the worst, with seven people losing their life after a line supplying water to the gas cleaning plants of blast furnaces ruptured. No life was lost in the IISCO accident.
A metal sector analyst in Mumbai said such incidents will build up pressure on state-run firms like SAIL to further enhance safety measures.
"Though nothing can compensate for the precious lives lost, when new equipment is being commissioned there is an element of risk involved. A steel plant is a complex operating environment and fraught with huge risks. SAIL's track record with older equipment has been consistent. Hence, it may not have a lingering effect in the equity market," he said.
SAIL has already appointed global safety consultants DuPont to carry out a study of safety management systems. "This will be particularly helpful during start up, ramp up and stabilisation of the unit," an official said.
All SAIL plants are certified by Occupational Health and Safety Standards and safety audits are conducted by third parties like DNV and TUV every six months.