Only 10 safety officials to inspect 3,000 boilers in state
200 new boilers are added in Karnataka every year on an averaga but maintenance is given least priority, say officials; 35 fatal cases reported so far
BENGALURU: The boiler explosion at an Uttar Pradesh thermal power plant which left 30 people dead and many others injured, brings a sharp focus on industrial safety in Karnataka.There is an acute shortage of inspectors in the state to check the safety of steam generators, also known as boilers, said sources.
There are 16,300 factories and 3,000 certified boilers, but only 10 officials to conduct a safety inspection for these steam generators.
Boilers are used to generate steam that are used in various industries including textile, distilleries, pharmaceutical companies, sugar factories, rice mills and much more.They are also used in thermal power plants.Many accidents related to boilers (but not all due to a blast of boilers) have been reported in the past.
According to A R Vijayendra, Deputy Director of Factories, Boilers, Industrial Safety and Health, this year, 35 fatal cases have been reported till October while it was 56 last year (2016). “The number is reducing every year as the department is trying to take measures,” he said.
A senior official from the department, on anonymity, said that on an average, every year in Karnataka, 200 new boilers are added.“These boilers need routine inspection. The wear and tear also cause damage. We can prevent accidents, provided it is routinely checked and maintained.The owners focus more on production than maintenance,’’ official said.
Further, an official said, though there are 3,000 boilers, there are hardly 10 officials, including the Joint Director, Assistant Director. “Normally the inspection is conducted by inspectors, with one inspector for every 300 to 400 boilers. How can one person inspect so many boilers in one year? Some boilers need inspection twice a year to get certified. We need people to conduct a routine inspection. The department is planning to hire three more people, but even then it won’t be enough,’’ he said.
When contacted T G Manjunath, Director of Factories, Boilers, Industrial Safety and Health, said, there is a shortage of inspection staff but they are trying to manage. The government of India has also given some relaxation on inspection.
“All these years, it was a department official. Now, third-party inspection is also possible, where an external private agency is given authorisation to do a periodic inspection. This will certainly lessen the burden,’’ added the official.