Vizag Industrial polymer plant gas leak in India leaves several dead

Industrial Accidents
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May 07, 2020- #VizagGasLeak

The coastal city of Vishakapatnam in India, also known as Vizag is the scene of a massive gas leak from a polymer production plant (probably the LG Polymers plant) and reports from mainstream news media report several dead and injured from the vicinity of the plant. It is not clear how the leak happened but at this time there were horror stories of people & animals falling unconscious by the side of the road after having inhaled the poisonous gas. Some of these people and animals have unfortunately not survived. Since this happened sometime at 3 am in the morning (Indian Standard Time), reports from the area were slow to come out. The local administration has advised people to evacuate from the area surrounding the plant. There are now more than 5000 people affected and several have been admitted to hospitals with breathing difficulties.

People took to twitter in large numbers. At this time the gas leak is still not under control apparently judging from the images posted.

LG Polymers seems to be part of the Korean multinational group LG that operates in several verticals.

The immediate first aid procedure seems to be dousing oneself with water and covering the head including nose, eyes and mouth with a wet towel, drenched in water & repeating the process. It is not clear what is the nature of the gas, but if it is Styrene then this could just work, however, if you are one of the affected and are reading this, please seek help immediately, as this is just a temporary emergency measure and not a cure.

Industrial plant safety is an important aspect of human life and if due care is not taken, accidents like these will keep repeating. What is needed is strict regulatory oversight of competent people, who are well versed in process safety. Many times authorities are more focused on occupational safety and worker welfare such as use of personal protective equipment or sign boards in local languages, etc whereas what is really needed to be focused on is Process Safety and Functional Safety. Both will prevent such disasters from happening. Incidents like these need to be prevented from taking place at all. No amount of PPE will save you in case a gas leak of this magnitude happens.

However a riogorous focus on process safety will prevent such incidents from taking place. Regular risk assessment studies using techniques like HAZOP (Hazard and Operability Study) and LOPA (Layer of Protection Analysis) must be done. Top management should realize the importance of these and allot sufficient budget and importance to these.

Otherwise, even more than 40 year after the Bhopal gas leak, we will continue to face such issues. This new Vizag gas leak must result in tangible actions on the ground with respect to industrial safety. The accident investigation must be started as early as possible and the report should be made public, so that everybody can learn from this failure.