District officials have launched a re-evaluation of various industrial units set up in residential areas that were identified in a survey last year as requiring immediate shifting for safety reasons.
A Punjab government committee consisting of the secretaries of six departments ordered the re-evaluation after it received several complaints from owners of factories declared dangerous, said an Environment Protection Department official involved in checks on factories operating without a green management plan.
The inspection teams consist of officials of Civil Defence, the Lahore Development Authority, Rescue 1122, the EPD, the Labour and Industries Departments, and local town municipal administration officials.
The environment official said that the factory owners had approached committee members and asked them to re-evaluate their set-up. “They felt that they were wrongly assessed, but the survey was fair,” he said. “It was done with the idea to make neighbourhoods and factory workers safer.”
The survey was ordered in the wake of the collapse of the Orient Labs factory at Kharak on Multan Road in February 2012, apparently due to a boiler explosion, which resulted in
the deaths of 26 workers. A fire at a shoe factory on Bund Road in September killed 23 workers. The survey, conducted between April and November, looked at some 7,850 industrial units set up illegally in residential areas.
Each unit was assessed in several categories and given a score of between 10 – the safest and 80 – the most dangerous. For example, an industrial unit was given 10 points if it was located in a congested area inaccessible to fire fighting vehicles.
They were checked for types of raw material and machinery, boilers and pressure vessels, source of power, generator use and types of fuels, emergency exits, fire fighting arrangements, condition of factory building and storage.
The factories assessed were divided into three categories: those containing explosive equipment, such as boilers, and flammable raw material, needing immediate relocation to industrial zones; units not posing any immediate danger, but needing more safety measures; and factories which needed a better environment plan.
The EPD official said that the committee had ordered inspection teams to conduct “random” checks at the factories declared most dangerous in order to assess the veracity of the survey.
District Officer (Industries) Azhar Hussain said that the committee had given the inspection teams a list of 70 industrial units. “There have been many complaints.”
By the end of this week, the committee will meet and review the final reports and begin to draft a policy on how to relocate the factories. It will then be sent to the Law Department for approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2013.