How India’s Sixteen Occupational Safety Laws Couldn’t Prevent Two Deaths

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The death of two workers at Anna University contravened no law because the laws are particularly blind to occupational safety at small enterprises.

On June 21, 2016, two young men died. Their bodies were found in a tank at the Anna University campus in Chennai. They were employees of a subcontractor who had been hired to seal the tank with rubber to prevent any leakage of air. The tank was being constructed as a part of a project by the Ministry of Renewable Energy to explore the possibilities of using compressed air to store energy. The two workers, Ramesh Shankar and Deepan, had arrived at the site at around 11.30 am and begun work. By 3.30 pm, when they were pulled out of the tank, Deepan was dead and Ramesh Shankar, while still breathing at the time, died a few minutes later.

According to statements from the university and the police, it seems that Shankar and Deepan had been working with two chemicals, silicone and toluene. Toluene is a solvent derived from benzene. While less harmful than benzene, inhaling or ingesting toluene can cause serious damage to the nervous system and even be fatal. Despite the confined nature of the tank, with only a solitary opening right at the top, the two men were given no safety gear and no supervisor from either Anna University or their employer, Kavimeena Rubber Products, was standing watch. Subsequent investigation by a team of labour activists found the situation to have been “lethal right from the beginning”. Read more

Courtesy: The Wire

Silicosis: SC orders 14 Gujarat factories shut, asks MP to expedite rehab

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Bhopal: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered 14 quartz factories in Gujarat, responsible for causing silicosis to labourers from Madhya Pradesh to shut down.

Hearing public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue of silicosis, bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman also ordered the chairman of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to file Action Taken Report (ATR) without delay on another 16 units in Panchmahal district that were found to be non-compliant on pollution standards by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The Court further ordered CPCB to prepare a status report on all related factories in other states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Pondicherry, Haryana and Jharkhand, on similar grounds as done for Gujarat.

Silicosis is a health condition marked by inflammation and scarring of lungs due to prolonged exposure to fine silica dust (in this case emanated by quartz crushing factories). Read more

Courtesy: Newsbits

Rising silicosis deaths in Bengal a concern

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Workers at stone crushing units are exposed to silicate dust

Sitting on the veranda of the cramped mud hut, Morzina Bibi (55) stared blankly when asked about the recent death of her son Zakir Paik (26) due to silicosis, a respiratory disease resulting from accumulation of silicate dust in the lungs.

“He was the only bread winner of our family of 18 and now we are no better than beggars,” she told The Hindu .

Exposure to dust

Paik, a resident of Goaldaho village in the Minakhan block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal died on July 21. He is the latest among the 21 people who have died due to silicosis over the last four years in Minakhan. All of them worked in stone crushing units located mainly in Bardhaman district where they were subjected to severe exposure to silicate dust.

Even as Paik’s death certificate mentions tuberculosis as the reason for his death, an analysis of the X-ray plate of his lungs by expert on silicosis Kunal Dutta showed that Paik died due to silicosis. Activists and locals alleged that in several such cases State-run hospitals do not mention silicosis in the death certificate but write tuberculosis instead. Read more

Courtesy: The Hindu

In Rajasthan, thousands of mine workers face a losing battle with silicosis

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The state government announced Rs 1 lakh relief for every worker, but has failed to penalise employers.
Paras Rawat first worked in the sandstone mines when he was 10. He helped his father Dev Karan drill and turn the grey-brown sandstone into slabs of 2x10 square feet.

Slowly, he became part of an annual migration from his village Sheopura in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. Every November, entire families headed to the sandstone mines in the districts of Bhilwara and Bundi, about 200 kilometres away, and returned home nine months later when work stopped in the quarries during the monsoon.

Ten years ago, Rawat’s father, uncle Polu Rawat and his wife Hagaami Devi, who worked in the same quarries, grew weaker and developed trouble breathing. Read more


Will look for alternatives to carcinogenic asbestos: Environment Minister

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NEW DELHI: Waking up to the hazards of asbestos use that puts millions of workers at risk of contracting cancer, the government has said its use must end and the Centre will ask scientists to look for alternatives.

"Since the use of asbestos is affecting human health, its use should gradually be minimised and eventually end.As far as I know, its use is declining. But it must end," environment minister Anil Madhav Dave told TOI.

He said his ministry would ask scientists and other stakeholders to find out whether technology or any nonhazardous substitute could provide an alternative. Read more

Courtesy: The Times of India