Chemical Hazards

The growth of chemical industries has led to an increase in the risk of occurrence of incidents associated with hazardous chemicals (HAZCHEM). A chemical industry that incorporates the best principles of safety, can largely prevent such incidents. Common causes for chemical accidents are deficiencies in safety management systems and human errors, or they may occur as a consequence of natural calamities or sabotage activities. Chemical accidents result in fire, explosion and/or toxic release. The nature of chemical agents and their concentration during exposure ultimately decides the toxicity and damaging effects on living organisms in the form of symptoms and signs like irreversible pain, suffering, and death. Meteorological conditions such as wind speed, wind direction, height of inversion layer, stability class, etc., also play an important role by affecting the dispersion pattern of toxic gas clouds. The Bhopal Gas tragedy of 1984—the worst chemical disaster in history, where over 2000 people died due to the accidental release of the toxic gas Methyl Isocyanate, is still fresh in our memories. Such accidents are significant in terms of injuries, pain, suffering, loss of lives, damage to property and environment. A small accident occurring at the local level may be a prior warning signal for an impending disaster. Chemical disasters, though low in frequency, have the potential to cause significant immediate or long-term damage.


The Bhopal Gas Disaster in December 1984 brought into sharp focus the unprecedented potential of HAZCHEM like Methyl Isocyanate in terms of loss of life, health, injury and the long term effects on the population and environment. It created compelling evidence to approach DM and chemical safety holistically.



DO’S AND DON’TS


Do’s:-

  • Keep calm.
  • Be a vigilant citizen and educate yourselves on the nature of chemical disasters.
  • Keep the phone numbers of the local police station, control rooms, fire stations, TV station, All India Radio, ambulance services and chemists for emergency use.
  • Check underneath your seat in cinema halls, trains, buses and airports. Be cautious of any unidentified luggage/unattended commodity.
  • Dial disaster management control room/concerned authorities for help.
  • Listen to the Radio/ T.V for regular updates.
  • Protect your mouth and nose, if in the open, with a wet cloth or a protective mask.
  • Leave the disaster site as soon as possible, preferably in a closed vehicle.
  • If you are in a car, turn off the air conditioner and close the windows.
  • Prepare an emergency kit of items and essentials in the house, including medicines, documents and valuables.
  • Store food and water for survival, in case you have a pre-warning.
  • Organize societies and neighbourhood committees to educate people.
  • Change into fresh clothing after reaching your shelter. This can remove 80 per cent of the contamination hazards.
  • Get fire-fighting equipment serviced periodically.
  • Drink only from bottles/cans, or water purifiers.
  • Participate in specialized training and mock drills.
  • Celebrate Safety Day/Week and take part in safety competitions, exhibitions, film/video shows, seminars, and debate.
 Don’ts:-
  • Do not panic or encourage rumours.
  • Do not consume uncovered food/drinks/water beverages, etc.
  • Do not attempt first-aid, unless trained.
  • Do not avoid alarms and signals.
  • Do not move out of shelters/ basement unless instructed by authorities.
  • Do not smoke, eat or drink in vulnerable areas.
  • Do not kneel, lie or sit on the ground, after the disaster.
  • Do not walk barefoot in affected areas.
  • Do not move out of your shelter without proper protection to breathing passages.