Railway repairmen claim exposure to diesel has caused skin diseases

Ghorpadi shed officials say they provide safety equipment to workers but they don’t use it.

Pune | Published: March 5, 2014 3:12:31 am
Many workers have dermatitis & acneiform eruptions. (express) Many workers have dermatitis & acneiform eruptions. (express)

Repairmen working with the diesel locomotive shed of the Indian Railways in Ghorpadi are complaining of skin problems arising out of continuous exposure to the fuel. If the over 700 workers are to be believed, almost two to three of 10 workers suffer from a skin disease due to the ‘fuel effect’. 

Senior officials, however, dismissed this as an insignificant problem, claiming that not a single representative of the workers’ union has approached them with such a complaint. They also said the workers — who spend five to seven hours daily in contact with the fuel — are given hand gloves, helmets and Kerodex cream to prevent skin troubles.

However, when Newsline visited the diesel shed, almost all workers were seen working without hand gloves or helmets. Many of them showed dermatitis-infected hands, nail infections and acneiform eruptions. Workers also complained that their medial tests are delayed many times. While they are supposed to undergo medical examination every three months, it is usually done every six months. “On record, we are given the necessary equipment but its delivery is delayed by years. Safety shoes, uniforms and helmets for 2012 were provided to us this year,” said a worker, who did not wish to be named.

Continuous exposure to diesel results in contact dermatitis. The symptoms include itching, redness, swelling and rashes. Contact dermatitis may also cause oozing and crusting lesions or ulcerations on the skin. Open lesions are susceptible to bacterial infection if not properly treated.

Workers said those who have developed allergy to diesel face the maximum trouble. “There are a few cases in which the person suffers from acute itching on both hands and on the face. In such cases, even the usage of gloves doesn’t help,” said another staffer.

Hemant Sonawane, Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer, in-charge of the diesel loco department, said the mechanics are instructed to use hand gloves and helmets. They are also directed to apply a barrier cream to prevent any complications arising out of diesel contact.

“I think only one in 100 people must be facing any trouble, if any at all. Otherwise the unions would have raised the issue with me. We often have meetings with union representatives. If there is such an issue, we will look into it and make sure the problem is addressed,” said Sonawane.

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