NDMA issues guidelines for resuming industries post lockdown

Following the incident where at least 11 people were killed and around 1,000 others were exposed to a gas leak at a factory in Visakhapatnam, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued fresh guidelines for manufacturing industries after lockdown.

13 May 2020 | By Aultrin Vijay

The fresh guidelines come in the wake of the Vizag incident

The guidelines come in the wake of the Vizag incident, where the company – LG Polymers – had restarted its operations after the government allowed industrial activities in certain sectors following several weeks of lockdown.

The guidelines especially highlighted the precautionary measures to be taken by industries, which are planning to restart operations following the easing of curbs for industrial activity in selected areas of the country in the third phase of the lockdown.

The NDMA guidelines mentioned that due to several weeks of lockdown and the closure of industrial units during the lockdown period, it is possible that some of the operators might not have followed the established SOP. "As a result, some of the manufacturing facilities, pipelines, and valves may have residual chemicals, which may pose risk. The same is true for the storage facilities with hazardous chemicals and flammable materials," it said.

Generic guidelines

  1. While restarting the unit, consider the first week as the trial or test run period; ensure all safety protocols and do not try to achieve high production targets.
  2. To minimise the risk, it is important that employees who work on specific equipment are sensitised and made aware of the need to identify abnormalities such as strange sounds or smell, exposed wires, vibrations, leaks, smoke, abnormal wobbling, irregular grinding or other potentially hazardous signs, which indicate the need for an immediate maintenance or if required shutdown.
  3. Ensure all lockout and tagout procedures are in place on a daily basis (not applicable for units running 24 hours).
  4. Inspect all equipment as per the safety protocols during the restart phase.
  5. In case the industry has any difficulty in managing crucial backward linkages that may be critical for their safe functioning, they should approach the local district administration for specific assistance. District magistrates may be instructed to ensure that in such instances, the industrial unit may be facilitated to run their end to end operations, in the overall interests of industrial security.

Guidelines for specific industrial processes

1. Storage of raw material

  • Inspect the storage facilities for any signs of spills, wear and tear during the lockdown.
  • Check for already opened storage vessels, containers, bags, and silos for possible oxidation, chemical reaction, rusting, and rotting.
  • Chemicals in the storage need to be checked for chemical stability before using for any processes.
  • Ensure ventilation and proper lighting before entering the storage areas.
  • Sense for abnormalities like strange sounds or smell, exposed wires, leaks and smoke.
  • Check supply pipelines, valves, and conveyor belts for any signs of damage or wear and tear.
  • Check the storage building for any signs of distress and damage to the roof.

2. Manufacturing Processes

  • Carry out a complete safety audit of the entire unit before taking up starting activities.
  • Cleaning of pipelines, equipment and discharge lines: Mechanical cleaning followed by air or water flushing and chemical cleaning based on the type of the process equipment.
  • Run-in of rotary equipment under supervision.
  • Check supply pipelines, valves, conveyor belts for any residual material and wear and tear. Also, check for obstructions and pressure levels.
  • Many process units handle combustibles or toxic substances (or both), the leakage of which could result in disaster, damage, or economic loss. To prevent the occurrence of such incidents, it is necessary to confirm that the plant complies with the required tightness before start-up.
  • Service tests need to be performed for all water, compressed air, and steam piping and equipment with normal operating fluids. The system is first pressurised with operating fluids and then checked for leakage. For air lines, leaks can be found using soap solutions. For water and condensate lines, the leakage can be observed visually. Leakage points found during the test are retightened. The test is deemed successful if no foam is observed from the soap solution, or if no water or condensate is observed visually.
  • All vacuum systems must be leak tested. The best way is to start at one end of the section and work through to the other end, checking flanges, valves, fittings, instruments, and other equipment. Each leak is tagged, making it easy for the maintenance team and personnel of the next shift to continue with the work.
  • Trial testing be carried out before the full-fledged production is initiated with full human resources.
  • Ensure the arrangement for round-the-clock emergency crews and professional technical teams

3. Guidelines for the workers

  • Ensure 24-hour sanitisation of the factory premises.
  • Temperature checks of all employees to be done twice a day. Workers showing symptoms should not report to work.
  • Provisions of hand sanitisers, gloves and masks to all employers.
  • Education on safety steps to take from entry to exit in the factory.
  • Sterilise boxes and wrapping brought into factory premises.
  • Isolate and sanitise finished goods appropriately.
  • Delivery of goods in shifts.
  • Create physical barriers to ensure the physical distance within the work floor and dining facilities.
  • Provide face protection shields along with masks and PPEs.
  • Factories that work 24 hours at full production capacity should consider one hour gap between shifts, except factories or plants requiring continuous operations.
  • Managerial and administrative staff should work one shift at 33% capacity as per MHA guidelines; but while deciding which particular person to be included in 33% at any given point of time, overriding priority should be given to personnel dealing with safety.
  • Ensure no sharing of tools or workstations to the extent possible. Provide additional sets of tools if needed.
  • Factories have to prepare accommodation to isolate workers, if needed.
  • The Human Resource department has to help manage the whole process for individuals; all travelling employees should undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
  • Workers involved in dealing with hazardous material must be skilled and experienced in the field. No compromise on deployment of such workers should be permitted when an industrial unit is opened up.
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