With an alarming increase in the number of fire and other accidents in the industries in Visakhapatnam over the last two years, district collector V Seshadri has constituted an Industrial Disaster Management Authority (IDMA) to look after the safety aspects in these industries.
This is in addition to the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), the local unit of the National Disaster Management Authority. The DDMA, however, is concerned with the public safety in the event of natural and other disasters.
During the past two years, there had been 75 major and minor fire and other accidents in about 50 industries, including the public sector Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, in which 32 persons had lost their lives and 43 others had been seriously injured. Some of the injured are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals.
While investigations had indicated that the majority of these accidents had occurred due to human error, none of the investigating authorities had made any serious recommendations regarding the safety measures to be taken to prevent recurrence of such accidents.
The office of the Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Visakhapatnam, does not have sufficient number of personnel and proper infrastructure in place, though it has to inspect over 3,000 industrial units, including some major units, in the three North Andhra coastal districts of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam.
Seshadri told Express that it was in this backdrop that he had decided to set up the IDMA. ‘’The DDMA only looks after the general public safety. The industrial disasters do not come under its purview. In view of the series of industrial accidents in the recent past, we decided to setup the IDMA”, he explained. However, the IDMA did not have any statutory powers and hence it would work in close coordination with the DDMA, he added.
The IDMA is headed by the District Collector and has the Joint Chief Inspector of Factories as its convener. The officials of District Industries Centre, Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, Department of Factories and some eminent professors of different industry-specific subjects are the members in the IDMA. The IDMA held its first meeting in May 2013 wherein it was decided to set up four teams to visit the various industries.
“After their first visit, the teams have found 87 industries to be hypersensitive or sensitive. The IDMA is still examining the various fire and safety parameters, including pollution threats to the nearby residents. The IDMA will soon issue notices to these industries directing the managements to plug all the loopholes in the implementation of safety norms,” Seshadri explained. If the managements failed to respond, the industries could face closure, he warned.