An inquiry report by the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) on the chemical factory blast in Tarapur’s Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) has pointed towards a series of violations by Novaphene Specialties Pvt Ltd that led to an uncontrolled fire which killed three and injured 15 factory workers. The report, submitted on Monday to the Boisar MIDC police and Palghar district collector, shows that Novaphene violated the Maharashtra Factories Rules, 1963, provision 4(1)(d) that does not allow an occupier to run a premises as a factory until an approval by the chief inspector of factories has been taken for changing a manufacturing process.
“The company did not have permission to conduct a certain manufacturing procedure from our department,” an official from DISH said. The factory was also found violating Rule 73(H)(1)(B) — labourers appointed were not trained in handling hazardous chemical material and enough safeguards were not kept for treatment of chemical and reactive material.
“The supervisor should be a chemical engineer. In this case, the supervisor was not qualified,” an investigating officer said. The factory did not have an automatic steam cut-off valve that could have prevented the blast, the inquiry report found. The blast that started in the Novaphene factory late on Friday night gutted five other factories apart from shattering windows and ripping apart electric wiring on street in the neighbourhood. Local people claimed the intensity of the blast was massive enough to confuse them to think it was an earthquake. The explosion and subsequent fire led to multiple blasts in tankers storing chemical solvents of the six factories.
The findings of DISH suggest that the blast occurred in the factory’s reactor number 6 where distillation of methyl formate was under way. In its preliminary inspection, an official said “it was assumed magnesium turnings and tetra hydrochloride solvent” led to the blast. The new findings claim the solvent did not lead to the blast.
“The workers increased the steam pressure of the boiler. As temperature rose, reaction in Reactor number 6 became uncontrolled,” the inquiry report stated. The boiling mass in the reactor burst a glass column of a condenser that led to “vapour formation” and a blast. The inquiry found that workers in the factory first called the supervisor who was at home. The supervisor advised them to flee fearing an explosion.
“The supervisor was not in the factory. The workers were untrained and ran out on instructions,” an official from DISH said. A showcause notice was served on the owners of Novaphene on Sunday by DISH. On its website, the company claims to manufacture Grignard reagents, high purity acid chlorides and pharmaceutical intermediates.
Documents accessed from Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had permission to handle hazardous waste for manufacture of alcohol acetate, dimethyl isosorbide, octyl sallicylate, Grignard reagents, ethyl hexyl glycerine and esters.
According to Boisar police, an FIR is likely to be filed. Palghar collector Dr Prashant Nanaware said: “The directorate of industrial safety is also supposed to conduct routine inspections to ensure that the industry is safe. We will go through the inquiry report before deciding whether any officer was negligent in this case.”