Another major problem linked to the incinerators at PGI is that they are run manually by workers, posing potential health hazards.
Two technicians and four sanitary attendants are posted at the incinerator plant of the institute.
Around 6 am daily, vehicles loaded with yellow bags (carrying incinerable waste), reach the plant and unload biomedical waste.
Workers carry the bags manually and throw the waste inside the incinerator, which runs at a temperature of over 1,000 degrees Celsius.
Every 15 minutes, the workers have to perform the task commonly known as danda marna — they have to manually rotate the waste that is burning inside the incinerator.
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“The two tasks are risky and pose a threat to the lives of workers. Ideally, people working in incinerator chambers should be provided gowns made of non-inflammable material. However, at PGI, workers are only provided with gloves, a face mask and gum-boots,” said an engineer.
The Biomedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1988 say that the employer should ensure occupational safety of its workers involved in handling of biomedical waste by providing appropriate and adequate personal protective equipment.
A worker said, “There have been incidents in which a colleague’s clothes were burnt while he was throwing waste into the incinerator.”
Another task performed manually by workers is collecting the ash from the incinerator. Every month, around 1,000 kg of ash packed in black bags is sent to Nimbua village near Dera Bassi for disposal.
“Every day, we collect ash from the incinerator and pack it in black bags. We feel uncomfortable at times,” said a worker.
An official said, “The collection of ash manually poses health risks for workers. That is why we change workers every six months.”
The rules framed in 1988 also makes it mandatory for the organisation “to undertake appropriate medical examination at the time of induction and at least once in a year and immunise all its workers involved in handling of biomedical waste for protection against diseases, including hepatitis B and tetanus, that are likely to be transmitted while handling biomedical waste and maintain the records for