Investigators suspect that since the unit had been shut for two years, the chemical inside the underground tank might have given out toxic fumes which the labourers might have inhaled. They, however, are awaiting the postmortem report to ascertain the exact cause of the deaths.
These tragic accidents have been recurring time and again, and the victims are always vulnerable, poor labourers, who are sent down these gas chambers by unscrupulous contractors. Workers pushed into these toxic tanks have no safety equipment like gas masks, gloves and gum boots. There is also a need for effective hazard assessment and proper monitoring of potentially flammable gases in such dangerous work areas. Laws must be made stringent for contractors who cut corners and put lives at risk.
Police said all four had been cleaning the unit for a week and on Saturday they were asked to paint the underground tank which was used to store chemicals.
The labourer who survived the mishap said he called the other staff at the plant in a bid to rescue the three, but they failed as they did not have safety equipment in place. They then alerted the Ambernath fire brigade whose personnel brought the trio out.
Inspector Sanjay Bhende said, “The primary probe has revealed the contractor appointed by the company had not provided any safety gear such as oxygen masks, hand gloves or any other equipment to the labourers.” Police have registered an accidental death report. “We will record the statements and as per the findings, take action,” he said.
It may be recalled in December 2019, three labourers had suffocated in a septic tank while cleaning it in Govandi. In April 2020, three more had suffocated to death and one was injured while cleaning a Virar bungalow’s tank.