The explosion of a tank of hydrofluoric acid at the Usiquímica plant in Guarulhos, Brazil, has killed two workers and injured ten others. The incident occurred around midday on Thursday 6 September.
After gathering information from workers, company representatives and fire-fighters, the Ministry of Labour and Employment decided to seal off the production area and wait for reports in order to establish whether there was still a risk to workers. The workers will undergo examinations to ensure they have not been contaminated.
Representatives of the Guarulhos Chemical Workers’ Union (Sindiquímicos), affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, accompanied the action by fire-fighters and provided support to workers trying to deal with the loss of two of their colleagues.
Antonio Silvan Oliveira, President of Sindiquímicos and of the National Confederation of Chemical Workers’ Unions (CNTQ) regretted the incident. “Let us now find out the causes and circumstances of the accident that killed the workers and take the necessary measures. We demand that those responsible are punished. The union will help the families of the two dead workers in any way it can”, said Silvan.
The union has been calling for measures since 2011, in response to workers’ concerns about the workplace environment. The union is worried that increasing production demands have led the companies to neglect maintenance work. Silvan said that the union would join a working group with representatives of the ministry, Cetesb and other relevant agencies and demand an improvement in working conditions.
On 10 September, the union held a meeting to express its solidarity with the workers. At the meeting, the workers said they were apprehensive about the company’s future but that they were also afraid of resuming work. The union said it will demand safe working conditions at the plant.