In a shocking event, three labourers have died due to asphyxiation inside a sewage treatment plant (STP) in an Apartment Complex in Bangalore. The police suspect that the three laborers – Mahadevappa, Ramesh, and Srinivas were asked to clean the clogged in-house STP by the Apartment Management.
On 7th Jan 2018, by about 10:30 am, the three men in question entered the STP of a residential complex in H.S.R layout. It is suspected that one worker went in first and when he didn’t respond to being called, the other two went inside to look for him. It was close to an hour or two later that the residents became suspicious because there was no activity in the STP and because the men were not seen. The residents immediately alerted Fire Control & Police, thus unveiling the tragedy that had befallen the three men.
Amidst the investigation and protests by Human Right Activists, the Apartment Management has found themselves in a difficult situation. The police state that as per the investigation the three deceased laborers were under contract to clean the STP once a month and they had been doing it for quite some time even though the necessary safety gear were not provided to them.
In India, manual scavenging is illegal. It was abolished by the Indian law because it was seen as a dehumanizing practice. It seems that the Apartment Management in question here were unaware of this part.
Hazards Involved In Entering Unprotected Into An STP
In any sewage treatment plant, two main types of wastes are entered into it – human/animal waste and industrial waste. Coliform and streptococci bacteria are abundant in human waste, when treated they can release methane and other toxic gas. Which means that while you enter an STP, here are the risks you face:
- Low concentration of oxygen in the air inside an STP can cause serious health problems and asphyxiation
- Without the necessary masks and gear, one will inhale enough toxic gases and come in contact with hazardous materials that could be fatal for the average human
- As mentioned above, decomposition of waste produces methane. Methane not only displaces oxygen in the air to make it less breathable, it is also a highly inflammable gas. A tiny spark could lead to a massive explosion
- There is always the chance of slipping on wet surfaces
Most industries and business organizations that set up STPs are forced by the law to comply and ensure that the necessary safety precautions are in place. In business organizations, there are usually specialists who know about various intricacies of maintaining STPs.
In Apartment Complexes, however, Owner’s Association members are left to manage everything around STPs. And many times they being no experts on the subject, mistakes happen.
It is therefore up to the Management Committee members to be aware of various legalities around various facilities inside a complex.
Here we have compiled a few guidelines and tips for handling STPs.
Safety Guidelines For STPs In Apartment Complexes
As per experts, there are three holy laws, laws that absolutely cannot be overlooked or breached while dealing with STPs. They are –
- Proper design of treatment plant
- Proper engineering of treatment plant
- Proper O&M of treatment plant
Here are some important guidelines.
- Smoking, alcohol, easily combustible substances or anything that causes sparks should be strictly prevented from entering the plant.
- Before entering the STP, having the necessary safety gear – masks, gloves and suitable footwear is mandatory.
- It is also discouraged to use loose clothing or anything that could easily get entangled in the machinery, open toe shoes or fancy substitutes for goggles.
- All cylinders must be chained to walls. Never leave any object in the path of walking. Workers must be advised against carrying loads that are too heavy or that block their vision.
- Always have an operating ventilating fan in confined spaces and an emergency evacuation plan/route/alarm button.
We also strongly urge everyone to go through our detailed article on STP guidelines
What Can MCs Do To Prevent Mishaps?
Apart from adhering to the necessary rules and regulations, there are a few things MCs and members of the gated community can do to prevent accidents around STPs.
- Plan Well
Participation in the planning process must not be limited to the MCs alone. Encourage active involvement from the residents as well. Collective intelligence is always a better option. Use platforms such as ADDA to connect with everyone, hold discussions and to conduct polls on what best to do.
- Get Professional Help
Designate reputable businesses to help with maintaining STPs. While sticking to a budget is important, picking the cheapest option which uses bad materials for repair and maintenance could turn out be an expensive mistake.
- Proper Gear
Workers may be unaware of the hazards of entering STPs without proper gear. It falls upon the MCs and apartment staff to ensure that they follow protocol.
- Timely reaction
Call for help at the slightest hint of trouble. Do not wait hoping for the situation to resolve itself. The event discussed at the beginning of the article is a lesson for that. If the other two workers had simply alerted officials instead of venturing out to hunt for the unresponsive worker who went in first, two lives could have been saved.
- Manual scavenging is illegal
It is a dehumanizing practice and causes health hazards.
This Should Not Happen Again
What happened with Srinivas, Ramesh and Mahadevappa should not happen to anybody else. While ADDA is deeply saddened by these events and hopes fervently that their families are adequately compensated, we all feel that it is our moral obligation to urge Apartment Residents to take decisions related to matters of Community Maintenance in an informed manner.
If each Apartment Complex internally strive towards developing better practices, it will reflect on the entire city and ultimately the country as a whole.
Let us know what do you think are the legal risks involved with the management committee members, by filling this form. – https://goo.gl/forms/xJG0sm8w3CRMdms82