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The administration of CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) is in the final stage of talks with a private firm to conduct a fire safety audit of a “few of its labs”. The move — to improve safety measures on the campus — comes over three months after a fire destroyed the Indus MAGIC lab on March 27. On June 29, The Indian Express had carried a detailed report questioning the safety norms at NCL. Meanwhile, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is yet to finalise a report on the fire at MAGIC lab, which had caused NCL losses worth over Rs 8 crore.
Highly-placed sources told The Indian Express that while talks with a private firm were still on, many senior scientists and top NCL officials had admitted that there had been a considerable delay in taking the step. “We have been told to strictly adhere to the required safety norms and abide with precautionary measures while working at the labs,” said sources at NCL. Some senior scientists have asked staffers, students and scientists — particularly those involved in fuel cell projects, which deal with highly explosive and inflammable chemicals — to follow stringent safety measures, said sources.
“While every department has ordered its divisional safety officers to conduct a primary audit of their departments, this has largely remained limited to a few labs,” added sources. They said a slew of basic safety instruction manuals have been circulated among NCL scientists and students, and a high-level vigil is being maintained to avoid another untoward incident. But, said sources, the reason behind the sudden measures to enhance safety remain unknown. As some sources pointed out, “Surprisingly, there is a great deal of attention on safety measures, but these are mandatory at labs like NCL”. Sources also told The Indian Express that a high-level internal safety committee of top NCL scientists will soon be formed to identify areas where safety needs to be strengthened.