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5 March, 2019 12:20:03 PM

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Chawkbazar disaster: A reminder and way forward

Hydrant points all over the country, not only inside buildings, malls and homes, but also at different points on the streets
Masihul Huq Chowdhury
Chawkbazar disaster: A reminder and way forward

Our deepest condolences go to the family members and the near ones to the victims of the sad episode of fire in Chawkbazar on the evening of 20th February this year. We pray to the Almighty for the salvation of the souls who died during this episode.

The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is considered to be the world's worst industrial disaster. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas. The highly toxic substance made its way into and around the small towns located near the plant. Estimates vary on the death toll.
The official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. A government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases. The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue that slack management and deferred maintenance created a situation where routine pipe maintenance caused a back flow of water into a MIC tank, triggering the disaster. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) argues water entered the tank through an act of sabotage. The Chernobyl disaster, also referred to as the Chernobyl accident, was a catastrophic nuclear accident. It occurred on 25–26 April 1986 in the No. 4 light water graphite moderated reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the now-abandoned town of Pripyat, in northern Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Soviet Union, approximately 104 km north of Kiev. The event occurred during a late-night safety test which simulated a station blackout power-failure, in the course of which safety systems were intentionally turned off. A combination of inherent reactor design flaws and the reactor operators arranging the core in a manner contrary to the checklist for the test eventually resulted in uncontrolled reaction conditions. Water flashed into steam generating a destructive steam explosion and a subsequent open-air graphite fire. This fire produced considerable updrafts for about nine days. These lofted plumes of fission products into the atmosphere. The estimated radioactive inventory that was released during this very hot fire phase approximately equalled in magnitude the airborne fission products released in the initial destructive explosion. This radioactive material precipitated onto parts of the western USSR and other European countries.

A general definition of adverse health effect is "any change in body function or the structures of cells that can lead to disease or health problems". Adverse health effects include: bodily injury, disease, change in the way the body functions, grows, or develops, effects on a developing fetus (teratogenic effects, fetotoxic effects), effects on children, grandchildren, etc. (inheritable genetic effects), decrease in life span, change in mental condition resulting from stress, traumatic experiences, exposure to solvents, and so on, and effects on the ability to accommodate additional stress.

The meaning of the word hazard can be confusing. Often dictionaries do not give specific definitions or combine it with the term "risk". For example, one dictionary defines hazard as "a danger or risk" which helps explain why many people use the terms interchangeably. There are many definitions for hazard but the most common definition when talking about workplace health and safety is: A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone. The CSA Z1002 Standard "Occupational health and safety - Hazard identification and elimination and risk assessment and control" uses the following terms: Harm - physical injury or damage to health; Hazard - a potential source of harm to a worker. Basically, a hazard is the potential for harm or an adverse effect (for example, to people as health effects, to organisations as property or equipment losses, or to the environment). Sometimes the resulting harm is referred to as the hazard instead of the actual source of the hazard. A common way to classify hazards is by category: biological - bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, and humans, etc, chemical - depends on the physical, chemical and toxic properties of the chemical, ergonomic - repetitive movements, improper set up of workstation, etc, physical - radiation, magnetic fields, pressure extremes (high pressure or vacuum), noise, etc, psychosocial - stress, violence, etc, safety - slipping/tripping hazards, inappropriate machine guarding, equipment malfunctions or breakdowns. For example, the disease tuberculosis (TB) might be called a "hazard" by some but, in general, the TB-causing bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) would be considered the "hazard" or "hazardous biological agent".

Hazardous chemicals in the workplace are substances, mixtures and materials that are classified according to their health and physicochemical risks and dangers. Hazards include skin irritants, carcinogens or respiratory sensitisers that have an adverse effect on a worker’s health as a result of direct contact with or exposure to the chemical, usually through inhalation, skin contact or ingestion. Physicochemical hazards generally result from a substance’s physical and chemical properties, as is the case with flammable, corrosive, oxidising or explosive substances. In managing waste many hazardous materials are put in the domestic and commercial waste stream. In part this is because modern technological living uses certain toxic or poisonous materials in the electronics and chemical industries.

Which, when they are in use or transported, are usually safely contained or encapsulated and packaged to avoid any exposure. In the waste stream, the waste products exterior or encapsulation breaks or degrades and there is a release and exposure to hazardous materials into the environment, for people working in the waste disposal industry, those living around sites used for waste disposal or landfill and the general environment surrounding such sites. Bush fires, forest fires, and mine fires are generally started by lightning, but also by human negligence or arson. They can burn thousands of square kilometres. If a fire intensifies enough to produce its own winds and "weather", it will form into a firestorm. A good example of a mine fire is the one near Centralia, Pennsylvania. Started in 1962, it ruined the town and continues to burn today. Some of the biggest city-related fires are the Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire (both of 1871) and the Great Fire of London in 1666. Casualties resulting from fires, regardless of their source or initial cause, can be aggravated by inadequate emergency preparedness. Such hazards as a lack of accessible emergency exits, poorly marked escape routes, or improperly maintained fire extinguishers or sprinkler systems may result in many more deaths and injuries than might occur with such protections. Organohalogen are a family of synthetic organic molecules which all contain atoms of one of the halogens. Such materials include PCBs, Dioxins, DDT, Freon and many others. Although considered harmless when first produced, many of these compounds are now known to have profound physiological effects on many organisms including man. Many are also fat soluble and become concentrated through the food chain. Many metals and their salts can exhibit toxicity to humans and many other organisms. Such metals include, Lead, Cadmium, Copper, Silver, Mercury and many of the transuranic metals. Hazardous chemicals may present an immediate or long term risk to human health through their toxicological properties, or a risk to safety of persons and property as a result of their physicochemical hazards. Risks include: Fire and smoke related injuries; Explosion related injuries; skin exposure: symptoms include skin dryness, blistering, redness, rashes, and itching; eye exposure: the most common symptoms of eye exposure are burning, itching, and watering of the eyes; respiratory tract exposure: symptoms may include headache, nose and throat irritation, dizziness, and disorientation; chronic disease.

All risks are assessed relevant to the context and conditions, but may include (but not limited to): Where possible, perform the task without using hazardous chemicals; where possible, substitute hazardous chemicals with less toxic alternatives; hazardous chemicals should be isolated from workers in separate storage areas; storage areas should be separately ventilated from the rest of the workplace; workers should be thoroughly trained in handling and safety procedures; personal protection equipment such as respirators, gloves and goggles should be worn; the workplace should be regularly monitored with appropriate equipment to track the degree of hazardous chemicals in the air or environment workers should be consulted regularly to maintain and improve existing safety and handling practices; emergency management plans are developed in consultation with workers and local authorities; ignition sources are eliminated, but if not practicable then controlled; hazardous chemicals, including those decanted into other containers, are clearly labelled; safety data sheets are available to workers or anyone likely to be exposed to the hazardous chemicals at the workplace; maintain a hazardous chemical register.

The writer, a banker by profession, has worked both in local and overseas market with various foreign and local banks in different positions

SHK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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