After Vizag gas leak: MHA & NDMA issued guidelines for restarting industries post-coronavirus lockdown

ST Staff
Sunday, 10 May 2020

Read the following guidelines issued by the disaster management to minimize the risk and to encourage a successful restart of the industrial units

In the wake of gas leakage at an LG polymer plant in Vishakapatnam which resulted in the death of 12 people, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) came out with precautions to be observed at the start of any manufacturing units.

On May 10, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) released fresh guidelines on the post-lockdown restart of manufacturing industries.

The government added that the first week should be regarded as the 'trial or test run periods,' and that industries should not be focused on high production targets, as they restart operations when the national lockdown is removed.

In the release, the NDMA said that it is possible that due to several weeks of lockdown and the closure of industrial units some of the operators may not have followed the established standard operating procedures. As a result, some facilities, pipelines, valves may have residual chemicals, which could pose a risk. The same holds for hazardous chemicals and flammable materials storage facilities. 

A failed valve at Visakhapatnam on Thursday is suspected to have caused the gas leak. Investigators believe that gas pressure may have built up after 40 days of lockdown which has caused toxic styrene gas to escape from an LG Polymers shutdown facility. The fresh guidelines from the government have developed the procedure to ensure safe storage of raw materials in the units of the factory.

The NDMA guidelines said that when lockout or Tagout procedures are not in place, many sources of energy can be hazardous to operators or supervisors who maintain electrical, mechanical, or chemical equipment. If heavy machinery and equipment are not regularly maintained, they can become dangerous to operators and engineers.

Combustible liquids, contained gaseous substances, open wires, conveyor belts and automated vehicles make a high-risk environment for production facilities. Improper enforcement of safety codes and improperly labelled chemicals may also pose serious risks to health.

The NDMA said the state governments will also ensure that the respective Major Accidental Hazard (MAH) units' off-site disaster management plan is up-to-date and readiness to implement it, is high.

The disaster management authority said the following guidelines are being issued to minimize the risk and encourage a successful restart of the industrial units:

GENERIC GUIDELINES:

  • Companies should not attempt to attain high production targets and consider the first week as a trial or test run periods. 
  • In order to minimize the risk, it is important for employees working on specific equipment to be sensitized and made aware of the need to identify abnormalities such as strange sounds or smells, exposed wires, vibrations, leaks, smoke, abnormal wobbling, irregular grinding or other potentially hazardous signs indicating the need for immediate maintenance or shutdown when necessary.
  • During the Covid-19 times, in particular, ensure that all lockout and tag-out procedures are in place on a daily basis (not applicable for units running 24hrs).
  •  Inspection of all equipment in accordance with the safety protocols during the restart phase.
  • If the industry has any difficulty in managing crucial backward linkages that may be critical to its safe functioning, they should approach the local district administration for specific assistance. District Magistrates may be instructed to ensure that the industrial unit can be facilitated in such instances to carry out its end-to-end operations in the overall interests of industrial security.

FOR SPECIFIC INDUSTRIAL PROCESSES:

Storage of raw material

  • Inspect the storage facilities during lockdown for any signs of spills, wear, and tear.
  • Check for already opened storage vessels/containers/bags/silos for possible oxidation/chemical reaction/ rusting/ rotting etc.
  • HAZMAT Chemicals must be checked for chemical stability in the storage before being used in any process.
  • Before entering the storage areas, ensure ventilation and proper lighting.
  • Sense for anomalies such as strange sounds or smells, exposed cables/wire, leaks and smoke. 
  • Check supply pipelines/valves/conveyor belts for any signs of damage/wear & tear
  • Check the storage building for any signs of distress and damage to the roof.

 Manufacturing Processes

  • Carry out a complete Safety Audit of the entire unit before taking up starting activities
  • Cleaning of pipelines, equipment and discharge lines: Mechanical cleaning followed by air /water flushing and chemical cleaning based on the type of the process equipment
  • Run-in of rotatory equipment under supervision
  • Boilers/ furnaces/ heat exchangers to be checked for lining and signs of wear and tear
  • Check supply pipelines/valves/conveyor belts for any residual material and wear and tear. Also check all the pipelines/valves for obstructions/ pressure levels.
  • Ensure all pressure, temperature gauges are functional
  • Tightness test: Many process units handle fuels or toxic substances (or both) whose leakage could lead to disaster, damage, or economic loss. In order to prevent such incidents from occurring, it is necessary to confirm that the plant meets the required tightness before startup.
  • Service test needs to be performed for all water, compressed air, and steam piping and equipment with normal operating fluids. The system is first pressurized with operating fluids and then checked for leakage. For airlines, leaks can be found using a soap solution. For water and condensate lines, the leakage can be observed visually. Leakage points found during the test are re-tightened. The test is deemed successful if no foam is observed from the soap solution, or if no water or condensate is observed visually.
  • Vacuum hold test: Leak tests must be carried out on all vacuum systems. Air is first evacuated inside the system to obtain the required vacuum. The best way to get started at one end of the section is to work through to the other end, checking flanges, valves, fittings, instruments and other devices. Each leak is tagged, which makes it easy for the next shift's maintenance team and staff to continue the work.
  • Trial testing should be carried out before the full-fledged production is initiated with full human resources
  • Ensure the arrangement for round-the-clock emergency crews/ professional technical teams provided with MAH and cluster of MAH should have an extended coverage of 200 km to reach transport accident spots for help. 

Storage of products

  • Check the storage facilities/silos for any damage or wear and tear

GUIDELINES FOR THE WORKERS

Ensure 24 -hour sanitisation of the factory premises.

  • Factories need to maintain a sanitation routine every two-three hours, particularly in common areas that include lunch rooms and common tables that need to be wiped clean with disinfectants after each use.
  • For accommodation, sanitisation needs to be performed regularly to ensure worker safety and reduce the spread of contamination.

Entrance health checks

  • Temperature checks of all employees to be done twice a day.
  • Workers showing symptoms should not report to work.

Provisions of hand sanitisers and mask to all employers.

  • Providing gloves, masks and hand sanitisers to be done at all factories and manufacturing units.

COVID 19 health and prevention staff education

  • Education on safety steps to take from entry to exit in the factory
  • Measures to take precautions at a personal level

Quarantine measures for supply and storage of goods

  • Sterilise boxes and wrapping brought into factory premises
  • Isolate and sanitise finished goods as appropriate
  • Delivery of goods in shifts

Physical distancing measures

  • Create physical barriers to ensure the physical distance within the work floor and dining facilities
  • Provide face protection shields along with masks and PPEs.

Working in shifts

  • Factories that work 24 hours at full production capacity should consider one hour gap between shifts, except factories/plants requiring continuous operations.
  • Managerial and administrative staff should work one shift at 33 per cent capacity as per MHA guidelines; but while deciding which particular person to be included in 33% at any given point of time, overriding priority should be given to personnel dealing with safety.
  • Ensure no sharing of tools or workstations to the extent possible. Provide additional sets of tools if needed.

Scenario plan on discovering a positive case

  • Factories must prepare accommodation, if necessary, to isolate workers.
  • HR has to help manage the whole process for an individual, all travelling employees also to undergo a mandatory14-day quarantine

Presence of skilled workers

  • Workers involved in the handling of hazardous material have to be skilled and experienced in the field. No compromise should be allowed concerning the deployment of such workers when an industrial unit is opened.

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