How mechanisation can avert Sivakasi accidents

29th July 2016

- The Times of India

How mechanisation can avert Sivakasi accidents

Following a series of accidents in firecracker hub Sivakasi including the one in September 2012 which claimed 40 lives, fireworks manufacturers are now taking steps to avert future accidents in units.

One of the major steps that manufacturers are mulling is to mechanise the manufacturing process, especially that of chemical mixing, filling and pellet making. The manufacture of fireworks involves the three major steps of chemical mixing, filling and finishing. Most accidents occur during the mixing and filling stages as they involve the use of highly combustible chemicals like Aluminum powder which may trigger a fire when exposed to moisture. Fancy fireworks, which emit colours and sounds, need the use of chemical pellets made of a cocktail of chemicals. In most of the recent accidents, these chemical pellets were involved in one way or the other. The accidents occurred while making or drying the pellets.

“Mechanisation is happening at gradual stages at least in chemical mixing. The problem however is that Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) allows only 5kg of chemicals to be handled at mixing or filling stages each because once mixed, the chemical mixture needs to be used that day itself and the residue disposed in a proper way. The mandate makes mechanisation of chemicals in bulk difficult” says Rajasingh Chelladurai of Jumbo Fireworks.

Major players in the fireworks industries have started implementing the mechanisation process by providing equipment like mixers, rollers, pellet-makers, sieves etc to their staff.

The absence of power in fireworks manufacturing units however has proved to be another hurdle in the mechanisation process. Most fireworks manufacturing units other than administrative parts are not electrified due to safety factors. In a bid to address the problem, vice president of Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers Association, S Srinivasan in a recent meeting demanded that firecrackers manufacturing units be connected to three-phase power to be able to operate machines without having the fear of short-circuits.

“There are many other challenges. For instance, earlier we tried mechanising the ‘garlanding process’ of crackers, but it did not work out as expected”, says president of The Indian Fireworks Manufacturers Association (TIFMA), T Kannan.

China as major competitor uses a lot of modern methods in fireworks making but such methods cannot be adopted here as the Chinese use a lot of banned chemicals in process. “The mechanisation is being tried out but only time will decide how it will expand since the fireworks industry is undergoing a sluggish phase at present”, Kannan adds.

Prominent units in adherence to PESO’s mandate have also built ‘containment walls’ between the chemical mixing room and working shed to avert spreading of flames in case of fire incidents. As fire in most cases is triggered by the impurities in chemicals, a few industries have also set up labs to check for any impurities in their chemical stock. Fireworks workers associations are also conducting courses for workers on fire safety.

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