The standards of safety in chemical industry in India have come a long way since Bhopal gas disaster in 1984. However, there is a further scope for improvement particularly in SMEs, which form more than 75 per cent of the chemical units in the country.
Where do we stand in terms of the quality of our safety standards if we compare it with the standards practiced internationally? How do you rank Indian safety standards? In respect to chemical industry, our safety standards are at par with International standards. The problem is with level of compliance, seriousness and integrity of enforcement and extent of advocacy. This is more so with respect to small and medium scale units.
India is now a signatory to international conventions and it is a mandated to comply with the international norms as far as the exports are concerned. What about those who are selling the products only in domestic market?
Many pharmaceutical, agrochemical and food processing units have adopted Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Responsible Care (RC) approach. As a result, they are catching up with others.
SMEs comprise about 78 per cent of all manufacturing units, employing about 73 million persons and contributing around 9 per cent to our GDP.
These units find it difficult to comply with the international standards (OSH) due to their inherent weakness. Our own national standards also do not differentiate small, medium & large scale units.
We need to develop Safe Operating Procedures (SOP) in simple and local language so that all can understand and implement them. The support of the government, pressure of the competition and encouragement from the large industries to whom they supply their products, will definitely go a long way in improving OSH in such small units.
The Indian Industry particularly SMEs need to raise their OSH Standards. The government should come forward and provide incentives, frame suitable standards on OSHMS particularly for small chemical units, issue guidelines on safety culture and establish a system for accreditation of OSH service institutions and professionals who can cater to different categories of chemical industries. Chemical safety rating system can also be introduced to reduce burden of inspection.
A number of accidents in chemical factories have claimed several lives over the past few years. These accidents have raised serious concern over the Occupational Safety in India
It is definitely a matter of concern that industrial accidents are claiming so many lives in our country.
The investigations into some of the major accidents including the IOCL Jaipur Depot fire in October 2009 have revealed lack of implementation of safety management system and poor safety culture in the organisations concerned.
As a result, safety was compromised and short cuts were prevalent. Even the top management was neither aware nor concerned about the risks involved in day-to-day operations. There was a general lack of leadership for safety at all levels.
Safety audits are the means of examining the strengths and weaknesses in the Safety Management systems. The auditors on the basis of their findings make certain recommendations for improvement. The management is free to decide on the implementation of the recommendations. The status of implementation can be checked only if there is a follow-up audit. I cannot really comment on the efficiency of audits conducted by others. But I can certainly vouch for audits conducted by NSC. They are the best, as these are conducted by qualified and well experienced persons having industry's knowledge and expertise. Our auditors are having more than 25-30 years of experience in operations, maintenance and safety. Audits are always conducted by a team of at least 2-3 cross-functional experts drawn from our own organisation as well as from the pool of externals. We maintain highest standards of professional integrity and do not compromise on quality. That is why no major incident has been reported in the units covered in NSC audits during last several years.
With increasing numbers and quantities of chemicals in commerce and use, scientific attention continues to focus on the environmental and public health consequences of chemical production processes and exposures.
Concerns about environmental stewardship have been gaining broader traction through emphases on sustainability and “green chemistry” principles. Occupational safety and health has not been fully promoted as a component of environmental sustainability. However, there is a natural convergence of green chemistry/sustainability and occupational safety and health efforts.
Failure to promote this convergence could lead to increasing worker hazards and lack of support for sustainability efforts.
In the ecological area “sustainability” calls for policies and strategies that meet societies’ present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
There is increasing scientific understanding of the human and environmental health consequences of chemicals and the energy demands associated with chemical processing.
National and international regulatory policies are inefficient in keeping up with the myriad of chemicals used in commerce today].
Workers have always been affected by chemical exposures. The history of occupational safety and health has been punctuated by research investigating the impact of chemical exposures on workers and by regulatory efforts for chemicals risk management. As society moves forward to balance economic necessity and industrial efficiency with potential environmental consequences, the implication for worker safety and health needs to be considered.
When worker hazards and risks are considered during design or re-design of production processes in accordance with green principles, health gains, environmental benefits, and cost savings can be maximized. Similarly, public policies designed to promote green chemistry technologies can promote worker health by including occupational safety and health criteria.
The commonalities of environmental sustainability and occupational safety and health have been widely acknowledged.
Green chemistry can advance environmental sustainability by informing the design of molecules, manufacturing processes, and products in ways that conserve resources, use less energy, eliminate pollution, and protect human health.
Reducing the amount of toxic intermediates in chemical production can minimize worker exposure risks. Alternatively, making safer products for consumers may be good for workers who use consumer products in their jobs. For example, workers employing less toxic cleaning products will likely experience better indoor air quality with reduced irritation for both workers and occupants.
A fundamental aspect of green chemistry is the identification of and reduction of toxic effects of chemicals through the design of safer products.
Historically, the toxic effects of new chemicals and materials did not receive much consideration in the design process. Designing substances where worker exposure is a possibility needs to include consideration of uncertainty around estimates because one chemical may be greener in one metric and less so in another.
The most effective means of occupational risk mitigation and hazard control is through process changes that eliminate a hazard or substitutes a nonhazardous or less hazardous alternative, effectively designing-out or reducing worker exposures.
Engineering controls are utilized to physically remove contaminants or exposure from the worker through isolation, local exhaust ventilation, engineering hoods or pressure differentials. The best engineering controls are those which are automatic and are reliable to reduce exposure, regardless of work practices employed.
Sustainability, occupational safety and health, and green chemistry can be promoted through the supply chain and ultimately be integral components of life cycle analysis. The triggers to promote these values in supply chains rely in large part on company motivations. Corporate social responsibility agendas need to include this focus and so do international management standards codes of conduct, international framework agreements, and national legislative initiatives.
Approaches that utilize green chemistry principles are needed if countries across the globe are going to meet their societies’ needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
These approaches are intertwined with work processes and consequently with workers. Green chemistry and sustainability offer a unique opportunity to improve occupational safety and health through the application of the hierarchy of controls. Ultimately, when worker hazards and risks are considered during design or re-design of processes or products in consideration of green principles, health gains, environmental benefits, and cost savings can be maximized. Public policies designed to promote green chemistry technologies can promote worker health by including occupational safety and health criteria.
However, the success of the chemical industry as a whole is built on a foundation comprised of companies of all shapes and sizes looking to invest practically in their own prosperity. For spend managers at these organizations hoping to push their enterprise into the 21st century, what value could be achieved by concentrating spend where it’s needed most?
Growing commoditization of chemical goods increasingly prevents businesses in the industry from investing in innovation.
Desire for a quick buck has officially overridden the urge to innovate, but from a spend management perspective, this narrow mindset offers little in the way of long-term financial sustainability.
Process plants worldwide and in India are scouting for technologies that ensure safety of their personnel and equipments, in addition to achieving improved productivity.
Proper safety precautions are necessary to keep the plant in a safe mode. Integrated safety not only ensures continued production but also takes care of emergency situations.
In today’s competitive marketplace, plant owners generally aim to achieve a reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), faster time-to-market, reduced CAPEX (capital expenditure) & OPEX (operational expenditure). An effective method of contributing to the company’s bottom line is by reducing the investment on SIS, without compromising on safety and availability. The next generation of automation systems - Integrated Safety Systems - provide integrated solutions by using the same hardware and similar monitoring and operating environments, without compromising on plant safety and availability.