Occupational hazard

At a Gujarat chemicals factory, workers have holes in their noses. Apathy of the owner is to blame

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- (Credit: Rustam Vania)WORKERS at Gujarat's only basic chromium sulphate factory, Hema Chemicals, are suffering from nasal septum perforations, or holes in their noses, due to continuous exposure to hazardous chemicals.

The factory lacks essential facilities such as proper ventilation, provision for natural light and fire exits. The result is all too evident. While over 42 workers suffer from nasal septum perforations, at least 27 have dermatitis. Many more have ulcers, while some suffer from diseases of the lung and kidney.

Factory owner Mahendra Patel is indifferent. "Yes, our workers have nasal holes, but even vehicular pollution can drill them," he says. Workers point out that till recently, the only ventilator in the factory was the main gate. Even this, say the workers, was always kept closed as per Patel's orders. They had to go outside to get some fresh air every time the emissions became intolerable.

The Indian Factories Act requires every establishment to maintain proper health histories of its workers, conduct regular check-ups and have a medical officer. The Act also says the workers should be told about the possible occupational risks they face. Contrary to Patel's claims, Hema Chemicals had none of these.

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