16 dead at Vizag Steel: CSE says tragedy inevitable because of the plant's poor safety record

CSE’s Green Rating Project had warned Vizag Steel to shore up its safety measures

New Delhi, June 14, 2012:  The recent tragedy at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (Vizag Steel), where 16 people died in the worst ever accident in a steel plant in India, was waiting to happen, says Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). In its recently released green rating of the Indian steel sector, CSE had drawn the attention of Vizag Steel to its abysmal safety record. In the cateogory of 'Safety and Environment Management systems', Vizag Steel plant was awarded just single leaf (15-24.9%) and it ranked 'last' among all 13 of the 21 participating plants.

In fact, the Green Rating Project (GRP) survey has revealed that over 144 people died in the period 2007-2010 in 17 of the 21 steel plants which the survey studied. Poor occupational safety management system was found as a clear area of concern. Says Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general and head of its industry and pollution programme, “The latest accident at Vizag Steel is symptomatic of the overall safety and health situation in the Indian steel industry.”

During the three-years period of the CSE-GRP study, it was found that more than 50 people die every year in major steel plants of the country. It also found that the steel industry of India has one of the worst safety performances in the world.

Iron and steel plants involve several complex processes with hazardous working conditions that require skilled understanding of the safety hazards. The existing safety monitoring and coordinating structures such as Directorate General of Factory Advice Service and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) which comes under the Union ministry of labour, the steel industry association called Joint Committee on Safety, Health and Environment in the Steel Industry (JCSSI) and the labour commissioners in the state governments lack expertise or enforcement capacity to regulate safety measures in steel plants. It was also clearly found that OHSAS 18001 certification does not have any correlation with the safety records of these plants. This is why existing institutional structures have completely failed to reduce accident rates in the sector.

Says Bhushan, "As concluded in the GRP study and given the latest unfortunate incident at Vizag Steel, it is again being recommended by CSE that a specialist regulatory body needs to be put in place to supervise, enforce, train, enhance disclosure and improve the overall safety performance of the sector. Strengthening of the existing laws of the 1948 Factories Act under which steel industry safety is being currently regulated is also called for."

He adds: "The institutional mechanism and laws of the country are severely constrained to manage/supervise safety and health performance of the steel sector."


News Clippings

Clean Biz Asia: June 27, 2012

India’s steel sector gets dismal environmental rating

Daily Mail/ UK: June 17, 2012

Price of not taking care

MSN News: June 18, 2012

Vizag Steel accident is a heavy price of not taking care

Times of India/ Bangalore: June 16, 2012

More than 50 people die every year in major steel plants in India

Daily Mail/ UK: June 15, 2012

Vizag plant didn’t pay heed to safety alerts

India Today: June 16, 2012

Vizag steel plant ignored safety alerts

Netherlands Aid/ Netherland: June 15, 2012

Vizag Steel Blaze Failure of Safety

The Hindu Business Line: June 16

Environment group had flagged Vizag Steel Plant’s poor safety record