Disaster Management Challenge – Pharma, Chemical and Petro-Chemical Manufacturing Companies – A Critical Evaluation

Blog   wpadmin   July 7, 2020

Executive Summary:

  • This article focusses on the various legislations to be adhered by the Indian drug, Chemical and Petro-Chemical manufacturers to control disasters caused due to leakage of chemical gases.
  • Precautionary measures to be taken while processing such hazardous chemicals while manufacturing the drugs.


While India is battling the coronavirus pandemic, the Benzene gas leakage at a pharmaceutical plant in Visakhapatnam has acted as another blow for the country. The leak occurred when benzene gas was being pumped into the reactor. About 30 employees were working in the plant at the time of the mishap. On inhaling the gas, around six persons collapsed and were rushed to hospital of which 2 succumbed to the mishap. It has also been reported that the unit is yet to receive consent to operate in Red zone from the authorities.

This is the 2nd incident in Vizag in last two months since the styrene gas leak in LG Polymers Pvt. Ltd in Vizag which claimed 12 lives and injured many in the port town. There are a couple of other incidents of gas leakage that were also reported in Andhra Pradesh during the month of June, 2020.

Probable Reasons of Gas Leakage:

  • The chemical(s) producing the gas might not been kept under required temperature conditions.
  • It could be due to temporary & partial shutdown of the plant on account of nationwide lockdown.
  • Testing of vessels, valves & pipes might not have been carried out as per requirements.

Legislative Guidelines to Be Observed:

  • Environment (Protection) Act, 1986- This is an umbrella act which takes care of all environment protection related issues.
  • Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986- These rules have set the environmental standards as to air, water, noise to regulate the environment protection mechanism for effective implementation & observance of the set standards.
  • Hazardous Waste (Management Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 1989- These rules are introduced to identify, control & take preventive measures for accidents and investigate & reporting to the authorities.
  • Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989- These rules formalize the process & procedure to manufacture, store or to import and transport such chemicals with due care.
  • Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996- These rules are introduced to formalize central crisis group for management of chemical accidents, set up quick response mechanism to alert the local system & report the same to the Central Authority.
  • Factories Act Amendment- This amendment has brought the standards to set up hazardous factory units, different set of safety standards & strictly follow the disaster plans etc.
  • Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991- This act was the need of India after the Bhopal Gas Leak tragedy took place. It has introduced no-fault liability to the owner which requires compensating the victims of such incidents, compulsory to take insurance policy to cover the liability caused due to any such accidents.
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860– This code provides penalties for making atmosphere noxious to health, negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance, causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others etc.
  • Explosives Rules, 2008- This rules formalized the process for grant of explosives licences for manufacture, storage, import/export, transport of explosives, prescribing safe procedures and methods for manufacture of various types of explosives including the tools, equipments and machineries, also laid down inspection & testing procedures.
  • Petroleum Rules, 2002- This rules provides approvals to Refineries, Petrochemicals/Oil/Gas Processing Plants, transport of petroleum by water, land and pipeline, Flameproof and other safety equipments for use and licensing of storage installations, Tank trucks for transportation by any means and also issuance of Certificate of Gas Free for Vessels/Ships carrying petroleum for dock entry or man entry or hot work and inspection & safety audits for these establishments to mitigate risk causing due to mishandling of these substances.

Measures to Avoid Similar Disasters:

1. Testing & Examinations of Vessels, Pipes, Valves

    -Hazardous chemical processing units have to ensure that vessels, pipes, valves should be tested periodically to curb down such accidents.

2. Proper Training & Mock Drills:

    -Staff deployed at hazardous chemical handling or process or any other related process should be properly trained & mock drills to be conducted at certain intervals to make the workers familiar with the process.

3. Emergency or Disaster Management Plans:

    -Workers should be made well aware of the rescue or evacuation plans.
    -Marking of the evacuation signs shall be prominently displayed to ease the evacuation.

4. Display Board for Use of Hazardous Chemical/Process:

    -The factory unit shall display the information regarding hazardous process or chemical used in the unit and also instructions to be followed by the public residing in the vicinity of the unit, in case of any emergency.

The evidence and records for measures 1 to 3 should be documented and preserved. The corrective actions for issues identified during testing and mock drills should be taken, documented and closed.


India has a plethora of laws and regulations to ensure industrial safety and penalties for violation of rules and liabilities for accidents are also codified. However, we do not have a strong enforcement of laws and regulations related to industrial safety by overseeing regulatory bodies. Ensuring more autonomy to the state pollution control boards (SPCB) to work without any sort of influence and micromanagement would be a major improvement step to ensure a stronger deterrence for negligence. Having stricter guidelines in place on the regular self-inspection and self-monitoring of facilities, and technology based reporting framework and mandating higher number of regular audit/inspection by regulators, especially for the units categorized as high risk ones is the need of the day. Ultimately, a thorough and disciplined approach in terms of implementing the existing policies and practices will go a long way in paving the way forward for avoiding such untoward incidents.


Legal Team

Proind Business Solutions Private Limited
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