Industrial Disasters (Disaster Management)

Industrial Disasters (Disaster Management)

This article deals with ‘Industrial Disasters (Disaster Management).’ This is part of our series on ‘Disaster Management’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Industrial Disasters (Disaster Management)
  • Industrial Disasters are the most disastrous among man-made disasters.
  • The Methyl Iso-Cyanate gas leak in 1984 from the Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal is a notable global example of such a disaster. This incident resulted in over 20,000 casualties. 
  • In the Vizag Gas Leak (2020), the styrene gas leaked at LG Polymers in Visakhapatnam, led to 13 fatalities
  • Before the Bhopal Gas Tragedy era, industrial safety was non-existent. Hence, the following has been done. 
    1. Factories Act of 1948 has been amended to extend the scope of risk to cover the general public in the vicinity of the factory. 
    2. Environment Protection Act, 1986, was enacted.  
    3. The Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991 provides for immediate and interim relief to disaster victims.
    4. Disaster Management Act of 2005 provides effective management of natural and man-made disasters.
    5. India has ratified ILO’s Occupational Safety Convention, 2006 in 2017
  • Stringent environmental regulations have effectively minimized the occurrence of significant industrial disasters in India after the Bhopal incident.  
  • One major drawback compared to the West is the non-availability of an exclusive Accident Investigation Agency.
  • Also, India doesn’t have a proper tort law defining liability in such incidents. This fact came out in the Bhopal Tragedy Case. But still, the law has not been made.

Cause of  Industrial Disasters 

  • Ageing of plants: For example, The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 resulted from a leak at the Union Carbide plant, which had outdated and poorly maintained equipment.
  • Improper Maintenance: Inadequate attention to routine maintenance increases the risk of equipment failure.
  • Human Errors and Non-compliance of SoPs: Failure to follow Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) increases the likelihood of accidents.
  • Defects in Design: Flaws in the initial design of industrial structures or processes can lead to industrial disasters.
  • Sabotage by Terrorists: Terrorists can engage in deliberate acts aimed at harming industrial infrastructure.
  • Natural Disasters like Floods and Earthquakes: Natural calamities can trigger industrial disasters by overwhelming infrastructure or causing structural failures
  • Improper waste disposal: Incorrect disposal methods for industrial by-products can lead to environmental contamination and disasters.
  • Absence of Class Action Suites in India: A Class Action Suit allows one or many plaintiffs to appear for a group of people with similar interests, which is part of US corporate and consumer laws. Without this legal mechanism, individuals impacted by an industrial disaster may struggle to seek compensation collectively.

Prevention & Response

By Industry

Steps to prevent Industrial Disasters (by Industries)
  1. Proper Maintenance of Plant Facilities: Regular inspection and maintenance of industrial plants to identify and address potential hazards.
  2. Installation of Gas/Vapour Detection System: Advanced detection systems with alarms should be installed to identify and respond to gas or vapour leaks promptly
  3. Strict Compliance with State & Centre Regulations: Adherence to and enforcement of regulations set by state and central authorities to ensure safety standards. For Example: Ensure compliance with environmental regulations in industries to prevent ecological disasters.
  4. Frequent Mock Drills: Management should conduct regular simulated emergency drills to educate workers about disaster response protocols. For example, fire drills are used in manufacturing units to train employees on evacuation procedures.

By Government

Steps to prevent Industrial Disasters (by Government)
  1. Accident Investigation Agency: The government should establish a dedicated agency, similar to the USA’s National Transportation Safety Board, to investigate and analyze the causes of accidents.
  2. Strengthening Regulatory Frameworks: Robust and strictly enforced safety regulations are essential. Governments should update and strengthen the regulations with time.
  3. Awareness Programs: The government must provide awareness regarding hazards arising out of these disasters 
  4. R&D Initiatives: Investment in research and development for advancing technologies that enhance disaster prevention and response capabilities in industries.
  5. Creation of Buffer Zones: Creation of Buffer zones by not permitting people to stay around in that zone 

Role of Public

  1. The public should actively seek information about potential hazards in their surroundings. For example, community meetings should be held to discuss and disseminate information about local disaster risks.

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