2 May 2012 – The Union government has directed the Directorate General Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) to conduct a radiology study on the impact of glass wool on the workers at Asia’s largest shipbreaking yard in Alang, Gujarat, and also prepare guidelines for disposal of the substance, which is used mainly as insulators in ships.
Once the study is completed and guideline are issued, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) will become the nodal agency to implement the recommendations by the DGFASLI in Alang.
The decision in this regard was taken during February meeting of the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on ship breaking under Ministry of Steel, government of India.
“A team from the DGFASLI had visited the Alang Ship breaking yard last month twice, to assess how the workers dealt with glass wool during dismantling of the ships,” deputy executive engineer, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) J R Kotecha said.
They have also observed the process of disposal of glass wool being followed in the ship breaking yard and have made notes, he said, adding that based on that they are likely to formulate guidelines as directed by the IMC.
According to the directions of the IMC, the guidelines are to be made operational by end of June this year. The DGFASLI has already conducted a radiological study on prevalence of asbestos and asbestos related diseases among workers of Alang ship breaking yards.
However, actions on the report was still pending for implementation by GMB and Ship Recycling Industry Association (SRIA), India. The IMC has asked the agencies to take necessary steps to prevent such diseases on war footing basis.
According to Dr P K Nag ,director, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) here, the health impact of glass wool among workers exposed to it has not been studied much.
“However, any fibrous substance if it enters the respiratory tract could affect health,” Nag said. Since there was not much research in this regard, the Union government might have asked DGFASLI to conduct a study, he added.
Glass wool fibers are fine glass fibers forming a mass resembling wool, commonly used in thermal, electrical, and acoustical insulation, weatherproofing, and filtration media. The material has been found to be hazardous in some cases causing diseases.
Asia’s largest, ship breaking yard at Alang recorded highest number of 415 ships coming for breaking during fiscal ended March 31, 2012 with 38.60 million tonnes of light ton displacement or LDT against 28.20 million tonnes LDT recorded in 2010-11. Number of workers employed in shipbreaking in Alang is around 20,000.