AP officials claim they prosecuted 111 firms for flouting safety norms
Vijayawada: Officials claimed on Thursday that the Andhra Pradesh government has initiated prosecution against 111 factories flouting safety norms out of 1,296 factories inspected since 2020, as part of its “efforts to ensure industrial safety” in the state. Clearly, however, things are going wrong at several levels.
They said that, in the aftermath of LG Polymers mishap in Visakhapatnam in May, 2020, the government ordered a special drive on all the hazardous factories.
“Accordingly, the authorities inspected 1,226 factories and served notices on 396 factories to initiate prosecution as they failed to comply with safety norms. However, prosecution was initiated against only 111 factories as the remaining units submitted reports that they had complied with safety norms.”
“The government had also ordered a third-party inspection involving experts on factories based on the intensity and nature of hazard. Subsequently, it ordered for another round of inspections on factories, which are in progress as of now,” the officials claimed.
They said: “In the latest round of inspections, the district collectors have been entrusted with the task of forming a committee of officials to inspect and submit reports on companies’ compliance with safety norms and it is in progress at present.”
The factories authorities claimed, “Even if cases are booked against the erring factories for violation of safety norms, it is taking three to five years on an average for such cases to come for trial in courts. Courts are preoccupied with the work of clearing a backlog of thousands of cases.”
They claimed that they had come up with a road map to ensure safety in the factories by directing each field officer to conduct two rounds of mock drills every month and submit reports.
AP factories director Chandrasekhar Varma said, “We are concerned about the series of industrial mishaps claiming several lives in the state. Apart from physical inspection of factories for compliance with safety norms, we are also trying to inculcate a safety culture among the workforce, urging them to strictly follow a safety code in maintenance and operation of machinery.”
However, a grim reality is also that, while nearly 25,250 factories are registered with the department, there exist 21 posts of inspector of factories and 13 deputy chief inspector of factories. Of them, nearly 10 posts of inspector of factories are lying vacant. This means, 24 field officers would “take care” of the safety of all these factories.
Out of these factories, 87 are notified as major accident factories, for which there are only 13 DCFs for inspections.
The factories’ authorities say they had requested the state government to notify the vacancies and fill them up through APPSC, this would take a long time. The newly recruited officers needed a year’s training to do the job.
Experts from the industries suggest strengthening of the field officers in the rank of DCF especially in districts like erstwhile Visakhapatnam and the twin districts of Godavari, which are witnessing several industrial mishaps due to storing of hazardous material. Experts also call for regular inspections until a safety culture is inculcated in all levels of the management and workforce. Responsibility must be fixed on those that are being slack vis-a-vis safety norms, experts say.
Factories authorities are conducting e-training on safety norms by organising webinars with the participation of 2,000 to 3,000 workforce in factories on a monthly basis
As the Ease of Doing Business module restrains local field officers from visiting factories at will, only designated officers are permitted to visit factories once a year as per a computerised programme
The factories authorities advise local officers to visit factories if they find some lacunae, but after taking permission from the higher-ups as safety should be top priority
Factories department is yet to allocate officers in accordance with restructured districts as the number of districts in AP rose to 26 from 13
Experts suggest posting experienced field officers to areas more vulnerable to industrial mishaps, based on past experience, and also to avoid a system of keeping in-charge officers in districts who are drawn from neighbourhood districts, for a long time