Safety a concern for Indian urea plants: Study

The study conducted by Centre for Science and Environment found that equipments for personal protection like helmets, goggles, ear muffs, face masks, safety shoes and gloves were inadequate

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 04 June 2019
Safety a concern for Indian urea plants: Study. Photo: Getty Images

Most urea manufacturing plants in India lag in safety compliance and environmental performance as per international standards, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based non-profit, under its Green Rating Project (GRP).

People working in the fertiliser industries deal with highly inflammable substances, heat zones, temperature variations and toxic metals and chemicals. As a result, the risk of accidents, fatalities and health hazards is extreme.

The study found that equipments for personal protection like helmets, goggles, ear muffs, face masks, safety shoes and gloves were inadequate at most plants.

Despite 87 per cent of urea plants (20 out of 23 plants) obtaining safety certifications of Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001, gas leakages and explosions remained a concern at fertiliser plants, located in the vicinity of villages and towns.

Local residents also complained about the pervasive ammonia smell and hinted at leakages from the urea plants.

The lack of proper safety measures was majorly attributed to the stressed financial conditions of the sector, the study stated. Returns on net worth from the urea industry as a whole were negative for the years 2013-16 and 50 per cent urea units were operating at a loss and the rest had meagre profits, revealed an analysis by the Fertiliser Association of India.

Independent safety assessment of old plant, improved emergency preparedness and awareness about dos and don’ts in case of emergencies is urgently required, the study pointed out. 

The poor financial conditions also had a major impact on the companies’ willingness to take initiatives to control pollution and deliver on their corporate social responsibility (CSR).

The study rated CSR adequacy of the sector below average. Only three plants CFCL in Gadepan, Rajasthan; IGF in Jagdishpur and Yara in Babrala in Uttar Pradesh excelled in CSR activities, while most plants reported little or no CSR activities in their reports.

The companies were also criticised for providing limited employment to local residents, lack of clean drinking water, poor sanitation and air pollution.

Further, owing to manpower shortages, compliance monitoring was also found to be inefficient and compromised. Many state pollution control boards (SPCBs) were reluctant to disclose pollution data.

Out of 52 per cent plants, assessed in the study, 12 plants received directions or show cause and even closure notices: For water pollution and air pollution or solid waste mismanagement.

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