Bhopal Arrests - Too Little and Too Late

photo : ibtimes.com

Much  press coverage this week about the sentences given to former Union Carbide empoyees in relation to the Bhopal disaster which occurred on 3rd December 1984, when the plant released 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, exposing more than 500,000 people to toxic gases.

Rightly, in this blog's view, the Indian Press and much of the world's press have expressed their disgust at the lenient sentences and the fact that nothing was done to bring the US based former Union Carbide head, Warren Anderson, to justice.

Bhopal was an incident that was simply waiting to happen. There were very many 'obvious' issues which could and should have been addressed by a company with the experience, expertise and capability of Union Carbide
  • Capital expenditure had been minimised  
  • General cost cutting had led to poor working conditions and an inadequate inspection regime
  • Safety rules were inadequate and operators were instructed to ignore them
  • Training was cut back drastically to cut costs
  • Workers were forced to use manuals in English, even though very few could understand the language
  • Some safety features had been dismantled or disabled
  • Safety systems were inadequately designed
  • Supervision was reduced to save cost
  • Poor morale led to an exodus of skilled personnel to better and safer jobs
Chemical manufacturers have a duty-of-care to employees and the general public. Chemical industry professionals receive years of training in order to fulfill this duty. For managers with the right training and experience, issues such as those listed above are easy to identify and address. Managers, at all levels and in any chemical manufacturing company, should be capable of spotting and addressing such major issues. If this isn't they case, they should not be in the role.

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