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Government of India must take swift measures to prevent another Bhopal disaster

25 June, 2020A series of accidents has killed and injured workers and caused irreparable damage to the environment. IndustriALL is calling on the government of India to immediately address this systemic breakdown in safety controls to avert any further potential catastrophes.

India has recently witnessed a number of industrial accidents, a toxic gas leak at LG polymers, an explosion in a chemical factory at Dahej, a boiler explosion in Tamil Nadu, a toxic gas leak in a paper mill Chhattisgarh, a boiler explosion in Lucknow chemical factory, as well as several accidents in the coal mining industry. Workers have been injured and killed and communities have been exposed to toxic chemicals.

The accidents reveal  a pattern of failures. If the causes are not addressed the possibility of a major catastrophe on the scale of the 1984 Bhopal disaster cannot be ruled out. It is also significant to note that the series of accidents occurred as factories were reopening after Covid-19 shutdown measures. 

In a letter to the Prime Minister of India, IndustriALL Global Union underlines that serious accidents on this scale are beyond the control of individuals and difficult to analyze and prevent using traditional occupational health and safety protocols. All aspects of safety, including materials, tools, equipment, work environment, job and task procedures, and people (both management and workers) must create a system of multiple layers of prevention, with little opportunities for failure.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary, expresses concerns over the accidents causing an avoidable loss of lives and serious health consequences for hundreds and thousands of people.

“We call on the government of India to undertake an immediate review of safety regulations and enforcements, and to take steps to integrate the principles of process safety management in the legislative and regulative frameworks.

“The government should call for a public consultation, involve unions and ensure full transparency to improve safety measures and prevent potential accidents. IndustriALL Global Union is ready to work with the government, employers and all relevant stakeholders for the benefit of workers and society at large.”

The Bhopal gas tragedy, one of the worlds deadliest industrial disasters, was caused by a gas leak in December 1984, at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. More than 15,000 people died and over 500,000 people who lived around the plant were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas.