A furnace of Sarvottam Steel Industry. Photo Courtesy: Saurabh Group.
Om Prakash Khanal
September 19: Police have not shown any interest to launch further investigation into the blast of a furnace of Sarbottam Steel in Birguj on August 26 that killed five workers. The incident left 15 workers injured. Five of them died while undergoing treatment. Preliminary investigation of the police has ruled out foul play.
The police did not proceed with further investigation stating that all the victims were Indian nationals and the contractor supplying the workers had initiated the process to compensate the victim’s families.
Police had prepared a report immediately after the incident. In the preliminary investigation, the police had found the industry to be negligent about occupational safety and health of the workers.
However, the police have not started further investigation stating that no complaint has been filed after the incident.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Bel Bahadur Pandey of the District Police Office, Parsa, informed that the on-site inspection of the police found that the steel factory had not maintained adequate safety protocol.
According to the police, the blast took place during a furnace test in the industry.
"It seems that the blast occurred during a test. According to safety standards, workers cannot not be kept in the furnace area. The industry is to blame for the incident,” Pandey informed New Business Age.
According to SP Pandey, the industry has submitted the details of workers supplied by the contractor and the contractor bearing all the responsibilities of the workers.
However, Article 68 of the Labor Act 2074 clearly states that the responsibility related to occupational safety and health rests with the employer.
Article 164 (2) provides for imprisonment of up to two years and appropriate compensation if any person is killed or mutilated intentionally or due to negligence.
The police team that reached the incident site immediately after the blast found a gas cylinder placed in the furnace due to which the explosion occured. A police official said that old gas cylinders were found scattered on the premises of the industry and such cylinders were put directly in the furnace. The official also revealed that there was political pressure to settle the incident.
It has been found that the industry has been negligent in informing the Labor and Employment Office about the incident immediately.
Chief of the Labor and Employment Office Jitendra Sharma said that the industry should have informed them immediately about the incident but they have not received any official statement from the industry yet.
"Even though we have to be provided the information immediately after the accident, the industry has not provided official information about the incident," Sharma said.
He said that the implementation of occupational safety in the industrial establishments of Bara-Parsa is weak. "Most of the industries do not have safety measures in place. Its implementation in the steel industry is even more pathetic,” said Sharma.
Rajesh Agrawal, manager of the industry, did not want to talk about the incident with our correspondent. "I am out now. We will talk about this later,” said Agrawal.
Though no further action has been taken against the industry, action will be taken if any new facts are found within two years, said SP Pandey.
Chief District Officer of Parsa, Pitamber Ghimire, considers the incident a wake-up call for the future. Ghimire said that no further action was taken as the deceased were all Indians, and their deaths and burials had already taken place in India.
Of the 15 people injured in the blast, 14 were Indians. Five people died during the treatment, while six others were rushed to Patna, India, for treatment. The industry informed the police about the deaths only a week after the workers succumbed to their injuries.