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Two killed in India steel plant incident

04 May 2012

Two workers were killed in an accident at a new blast furnace at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant in Andhra Pradesh on May 1. The two, engaged by a private company, were burnt alive following an explosion in the blast furnace.

The Visakhapatnam Steel Plant in Andhra Pradesh
The Visakhapatnam Steel Plant in Andhra Pradesh

Preliminary reports said the accident occurred when an earth mover was deployed to remove slag from the blast furnace.

While inserting a steel rod to remove the slag through a hole, the slag accompanied by hot metal gushed out and engulfed the machine, leading to an explosion which killed the two workers immediately, according to sources quoted by The Hindu BusinessLine. 

"The blast might have occurred when water came in contact with the hot metal,” employees’ union secretary N Rama Rao told the Times of AP. He said that workers usually clean the slag through a slag granulation plant, which is yet to come into operation at the new furnace.

The furnace was commissioned on April 24, and the company says it is the biggest in the whole of Asia with a daily output of 7,150 metric tonnes. The capacity of the other two blast furnaces is 4,500 MT each.

A spokesman for plant owner Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd described the incident as unfortunate, and said the reason for the accident was being ascertained.

The Steel Plant Employees' Union General Secretary, Mr D. Adinarayana, blamed the management for the frequent accidents in the plant.

The Hindu confirmed this, and said these accidents could well affect the company’s plans to expand output from 6.3 million tonnes to 11 million tonnes, with a planned investment of Rs. 220bn over the next four to five years.

The Hindu attributed the accidents to too much dependence on contract labour, even in critical areas, which led to compromises on safety. Also, managers and employees sent abroad for training in blast furnace management usually tried to get postings in other less risky parts of the site on their return.

The unions say they have asked management on several occasions to improve safety at Visakhapatnam.

“After accidents, the management constitute committees to probe, but after that the reports are buried in cold storage,” Adinarayana said.

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