People gather to protest the deaths of workers at the Gerdau steel factory in Andhra Pradesh.

India: Six workers die at Gerdau steel plant

13.07.2018

Six workers died and three more workers are under treatment in a gas leak accident at the Gerdau steel plant at Tadipatri of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh on 12 July. 

The accident of leakage of poisonous gas at the Gerdau steel plant happened at around 5 pm on 12 July. While workers were cleaning a tunnel, some workers fell unconscious and two others who went to rescue their colleagues also collapsed. Subsequently all who were affected by the gas leak were taken to the hospital. Two workers died on the way to the hospital while four others passed away at the hospital. Three workers are said to be under treatment. 

Victims of the fatal accident have been identified as K Manoj Kumar (24), B Ranganath (21), SM Wasim Basha (26), K Siva Maddileti (26), K Yugandhar (37) and G Guruvaiah (45). Among six workers who died, only two are permanent workers and remaining four workers include contract and apprentice workers. Many of these workers recently got married while some of them are survived by young children. 

Local government authorities are investigating the accident and are expected to provide a report in a few days. Initial reports suggest that the leakage of carbon monoxide in the tunnel occurred as the gas was being used for reheating after repair work. Apparently local authorities have announced that compensation to the dead will be provided based on work experience. As four of the victims are precarious workers, it remains unclear as to what compensation they will receive. 

Appropriate safety measures and regular safety inspection by the government authorities at the Gerdau plant at Tadipatri could have averted the accident. The accident led to major protest in the region demanding appropriate compensation for victims and their families and punishment of those who are responsible for the accident. Currently the plant does not have a labour union. An earlier attempt to form a union a few years ago was unsuccessful.

Gerdau is one of largest steel producers in the world and has a poor health and safety record. In less than a year in 2017, ten workers were killed at Gerdau’s Ouro Branco plant in Brazil. In a May 2018 meeting of the Gerdau workers’ world council, union representatives highlighted numerous problems faced by Gerdau workers including the anti-union practices of the company. 

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary said:

“Gerdau must improve health and safety measures at its plants across the world. It is unacceptable that avoidable fatal accidents continue to claim Gerdau workers’ lives. We stand in solidarity with families who lost their loved ones and demand that Gerdau management provide appropriate compensation to victims’ families. Gerdau should not try to block workers from organizing a union at their plant in India. The company must work with the Gerdau workers’ world council to address health and safety concerns across the globe.”