The cement industry knows the importance of overall safety. However, process safety is a more comprehensive process, ensuring safety even during operations like coal grinding and hot meal handling.
Process safety is more concise on origin of risk, thereby identifying threats which come from manufacturing processes involving flammables like solid fuels and combustibles.
Elsewhere in this Lead Story, industry veteran Shreekant Hulgi has echoed the same sentiments. The simplest example of explaining process safety is grinding of coal which is used as a fuel for the kiln. Coal is pulverised in a mill, but being a combustible material, it causes a very hazardous process environment. But the environment can be made less hazardous by introducing some measures. Inspecting and assessing those measures at a certain frequency is a part of process safety audit. From time to time, plants need to carry out such audits to make sure that the system is working and the process environment remains safe.
This section also carries an article from MVS Engineering, who are suppliers of inertisation systems for coal mills. In order to make the coal mill area less explosive, nitrogen or carbon dioxide gas may be used. Either gas works as an inert gas, and the process is called inertisation. However, from the safety point of view, nitrogen inertisation scores over carbon dioxide intertisation.
The incidences happening in the coal mill area, in and around the kiln platform, have been much higher than the other process areas. As a part of process safety, operators should enumerate the other areas which can be covered under process safety. Solid fuel/coal handling, storage, transport, grinding, firing including pyro-processing, hot air generator, etc., are more vulnerable to process risks. Today, the changeover to alternate fuels and handling of industrial waste also increases the risk of fire. These are only indicative process areas or locations those can be subjected to process safety audits. Currently, a few plants are following a permit system for entry to the confined spaces where these processes are being carried out, only allowing authorised persons to enter process risk areas.
There are certain areas where build-ups occur in plants due to certain process obstructions. These are potential risk areas where accidents can happen. Historically such incidences can provide useful information if the incidents have been recorded correctly. Any such build-up and the action thereon has to be taken correctly and with more than adequate care. Pre-heater pre-calciner towers, blockages inside kilns, coolers, handling of hot meal etc., have to be dealt with utmost vigilance. Talking in general about plant safety, normally, as far as working at heights is concerned, the job is mainly given out to contract labourers. Therefore, safety norms should be made stringent for contractors too.
Safety during maintenance
It is a general observation that when a plant is down for some major or minor repairs, usually by the end of the job, pressure piles up on the staff, and some short cut methods are employed to finish every job quickly. Though the plant might have avoided any incidents till such time, accidents do flare up at the end due to the maintenance staff being careless when they try to get some machinery functional again. Trained and competent personnel in the team are always an asset during such jobs.
While talking on safety, we must try and change the mindset rather than being mechanical in our actions while promoting safe practices. Though the situation in the plants is changing fast, a lot still remains to be done.
Workers up in arms after employee´s death at a Himachal Pradesh cement plant Trouble flared up after a worker died in an accident at a cement manufacturing plant in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh recently in the month of December 2016. A workman allegedly fell to his death from a height of 30 feet while he was trying to clean a chimney.
His death triggered widespread protest in the plant. Agitated workers wanted a compensation of Rs 30 lakh for the deceased, and jobs for his brothers along with a pension for his mother, but the company was ready to pay only Rs 20 lakh in all as the dead worker had been a contractual employee.
Since the deceased had been a contractual employee, company officials were reluctant to enhance the compen_sation amount beyond Rs 20 lakh. This figure was arrived at only after protracted protests outside the plant.
A police official said that the plant had been shut for maintenance and the workman was allegedly cleaning the 30-feet high chimney without the contractor adopting due safety precautions.
In case of the death of a workman, the company is supposed to pay compensation to the kin of the deceased vis-a-vis his remaining years of service and a job to the kin.