24 July, 2023On 18 July, an explosion caused by an oxygen cylinder at UltraTech Cement's plant in Himri, Chhattisgarh, India, resulted in the death of three contract workers. Two other workers sustained injuries and are currently receiving medical treatment.
The victims were identified as Lakesh Kumar Gayakwad (21), Shatruhan Lal Verma (27), and Umesh Kumar Verma (26), they were subcontractors hired by a private company to carry out pipeline-related repair work at the UltraTech factory.
The incident has drawn attention to the issue of precarious employment in the Indian cement industry. According to the Indian National Cement Workers' Federation (INCWF), approximately 83 per cent of workers in the industry work under precarious conditions. This tragic event underscores the importance of ensuring workplace safety for all workers, especially those engaged in contract work.
Following the accident, INCWF demands fair compensation for the families of the deceased workers as immediate relief.
“We demand that there be a limit to precarious employment in cement industry and an increase of permanent jobs. We urge UltraTech's management to implement stringent measures to improve workplace safety, particularly for contract workers, to prevent similar incidents in the future,”
said Deoraj Singh, general secretary of INCWF.
UltraTech Cement is one of India's leading cement manufacturers and is a part of the Aditya Birla Group (ABG), operating across 26 countries. However, recent incidents have raised concerns about worker safety within the company, prompting calls for enhanced safety protocols and practices.
In 2021, at least seventeen accidents occurred in the cement industry in which around 21 workers lost their lives and 20 workers were seriously injured. In 2022, at least ten accidents occurred in which nine workers were killed and 29 were seriously injured. The Majority of these workers were contract workers.
“One of the dangers of outsourcing operations is that safety procedures get compromised. This is not a standalone incident. It is the responsibility of UltraTech management to ensure that all workers have access to safety mechanisms,”
said Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL’s South Asia regional secretary.