21 February, 2009, Mettur Dam One worker – P. Thangaraj (23 years) of Anaipallam hamlet — had to have his left leg amputated after a massive explosion at Chemplast’s Metkem Silicon plant in Mettur Dam crushed the victims limb. The explosion which was heard at around 2.30 p.m. on 21 February is the latest in a series of serious mishaps at Chemplast’s chemicals complex in Mettur. A few months ago, there was a major leak of HCFC – an ozone depleting substance – from the company’s freon plant.
Saturday’s explosion occurred due to failure by the company to maintain equipment properly and by their failure to observe precautionary measures in their work. According to one report by a worker, Thangaraj and some other workers were brought in to clean a hydrogen tank. Because the hatch covering the tank was in poor condition and the bolts were rusted, the workers were ordered to cut through the hatch using a blow-torch. Hydrogen is a highly explosive substance. When the blow-torch was used, the inevitable happened and the tank exploded sending shrapnel that crushed Thangaraj’s left leg. The leg was later amputated below the waist at Manipal Hospital, Salem.
Thangaraj was a contract worker engaged for work in the factory for more than two years. Employers are prohibited from using untrained contract workers for hazardous work requiring trained personnel. The victim’s family members and representatives of the West Gonur Agriculturists Development Union have filed a complaint with the Karumalaikoodal police station. However, the Police have refused to give an acknowledgement of the letter.