Fires ‘waiting’ to erupt as industrial units sit on tinderbox

In barely a week,PCMC fire brigade staff had to rush to three industrial units to douse what are being described as major fires.

Written by MANOJ MORE | Pune | Published: May 28, 2012 1:38:09 am

In barely a week,PCMC fire brigade staff had to rush to three industrial units to douse what are being described as major fires. While two industrial units were in Pimpri-Chinchwad MIDC area,the third one was in Talegaon MIDC area. In all the three instances,say fire brigade and MIDC officials,tragedies were waiting to happen — with drums filled with chemicals lying about indiscriminately on the premises while there was no space for employees to move around freely.

On Tuesday last,a major fire broke out at a paint factory at Bhosari. At least 16 fire tenders fought the blaze for nearly three hours. The workers and the staff had a narrow escape. PCMC fire brigade officials said they were shocked to find that over 500 drums filled with chemicals,several uncovered and dripping,were crammed in the factory. The damage ran into crores.

The scene at two other industrial units was no different with barrels and tanks all over the place,say fire officials.

The fires have once again brought to focus the ‘hazardous’ working conditions in industrial units,especially those dealing in huge quantities of chemicals. The incidents have revived memories of the ghastly tragedy at Sai Industries where 11 workers were charred to death in 2008.

Analysing the ‘frightening scenario’ in MIDC industrial areas,PCMC fire chief Kiran Gawde on Sunday said the smaller industrial units are the biggest culprits. “If they have a land of 3,000 sq ft,all of it is built upon,leaving no space for amenities or free movement,” he said. Drums,barrels and tanks filled with dangerous chemicals,raw material,scrap and finished goods occupy every inch of the space inside the company premises,he added. “These industrial units are packed to rafters. In case of fires,employees run for their lives,spilling chemicals and fuelling the blaze,” he said.

Smaller factories,Gawde said,especially those with less than 100 employees or so do not have designated officers to look after departments of fire,safety and others. “Fire safety norms are being brazenly flouted at smaller units. They need to be reined in to avert bigger tragedies like the Sai mishap,” he said.

MIDC divisional fire officer Nilesh Verlekar concurs. “The scene at Talegaon unit on Saturday was shocking. It was heavily congested.” Verlekar said MIDC has taken steps to ensure industrial units follow rules as per the Fire Protection Act. “We ensure that new industrial units who have not put fire safety norms in place do not get building completion certificates. However,the old units have become bothersome as they were set up when fire safety norms were not rigorous. When they come for renewal of their licences,we are trying to make sure that they abide by the norms. The process has started,” he said.

Agreeing that there was a pressing to need keep a check on hazardous industrial units,MCCIA executive-director Anant Sardeshmukh said,“We regularly train employees at such units. However,the government industrial safety and labour departments will have to take initiatives to make these units toe the line.” Sardeshmukh said the response meetings with owners of such industries has been poor. “We will now write to the industrial units and urge them to take necessary safety steps to prevent fires. We will tell them to provide feedback about the steps taken.”

Blaze in factory,One killed,P2

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