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22 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Industrial Boiler safety

Only eight people to inspect 5000 boilers

Recruitment of 100 inspectors stalled
FAISAL MAHMUD
Only eight people to 
inspect 5000 boilers

The process of recruitment of 100 new inspectors to check industrial boilers has got embroiled in red tape, making the country’s industrial sector a dangerous place to work in even now. In the past four years, 62 people have died in 12 separate incidents of boiler explosions in Bangladesh. Considered the heart of an industrial set-up, these boilers in Bangladesh—which are run on natural gas—require periodic inspections for ensuring their safety standards. But thought there is a total of 5,039 active boilers across the country, Bangladesh has just eight government-appointed inspectors!

These inspectors are burdened with everything—approvals of new boilers and skilled boiler operators, renewals of old boilers through the issuance of fitness certificates and a pile of paperwork to comply with bureaucratic requirements.

An inspector is usually given the task of inspecting some 85 to 90 boilers per month. At present, there are five inspectors, two deputy chief inspectors and a chief inspector in the office.

“I was given the task of inspecting 87 boilers last month,” said Pranab Kumar Sarkar, an inspector. “And I could only properly inspect about half of those boilers,” he admitted. Of the boilers that Sarkar had inspected, fitness certificates have been issued in respect of 44 boilers. For the remainder, he has not been able to complete the paperwork yet.

Under the Boilers Act of 1923—the 94-year-old Act which sets the guidelines for the

inspection of boilers—an inspector is entitled to issue fitness certificate for six months. But before such issuance, the deputy chief inspectors have to scrutinise the report. Also, only the chief inspector has the capacity to issue fitness certificate for one year after going through the field report.

Most of the factories that are obliged to get a fitness certificate for their boilers apply and pay the charges for the one-year certificate. As a result, the files prepared after the field visits have to be tabled in front of the chief inspector for the issuance of the one-year certificate.

“Every year, I have to sign over 70,000 inspection reports,” Abdul Mannan, the incumbent chief inspector—who has been in the chair for the past three years—told The Independent. “All these reports are technical, and properly reviewing each of them takes time. Nonetheless, I had to do it,” he said. Mannan said only a mechanical engineer can properly inspect a boiler. A boiler inspector constantly needs to familiarise himself with new models of boilers by reading technical manuals. He needs to know how to conduct a hydraulic test, a boiler shield test and a safety valve test.

“All the recruits in my office are mechanical engineers, with at least an undergraduate degree in engineering. We are all severely overworked. That takes a toll on the tasks at hand,” he said.

He said the Boilers Act makes it mandatory to have an annual fitness check run on every factory with a boiler across the country. After the factory owners submit the applications for annual fitness certificates, each inspector is allocated a certain number of boilers for inspection. But since the office is severely understaffed, the deputy chief inspectors and the chief inspector now go on field visits.

“I now have to go to factories sometimes, which makes it quite impossible for me to complete the intensive paperwork,” admitted Mannan. Deputy chief inspector Zia Ul Haque said in order to make the boiler inspectors’ task less hectic, the Office of the Chief Inspector of Boilers conducts training and takes exams for boiler operators. After passing the exams and getting the certification, such a boiler operator gets appointed in a factory with a boiler room.

In the 2016–17 fiscal year, the office conducted exams and issued certificates to 1,041 boiler operators. In 2015–16, 2014–15 and 2013–14, the numbers were 997, 1,233 and 409 respectively.

“They are trained to keep a log book of each boiler. This log book has all the necessary information about the boiler. Looking at it, we are supposed to instantly obtain an understanding of the boiler of that factory,” said Haque. “Unfortunately, however, we find that many of those log books are being maintained on a piecemeal basis,” he added.

A boiler operator of a textile factory, who preferred to remain unnamed, disclosed that the owners in many cases force them to run the boilers for prolonged periods. “A stopped boiler means a stopped production unit. The profit-driven owners sometimes fail to understand the danger of an overworked boiler and force us to keep the boiler room operational for long hours,” said the operator. Commenting on this alarming scenario, Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said boilers represent a significant capital investment for any industry and the owners are aware of the danger of an overworked and improperly checked boiler. “No factory owner would put the boiler at risk by overworking it,” claimed Rahman.

Rahman said the BGMEA asks all its member factories to get their boilers checked properly. “The association also held several awareness and training programmes to ensure that boilers are properly used,” he said. “But the low number of boiler inspectors makes the whole practice of checking boilers a daunting task.”

Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI)—the apex body of all business in the country—said the government needs to appoint more boiler inspectors immediately. “Improperly checked boilers pose a great risk to our workers in the factories,” he observed.

After the incident of a boiler explosion in Multifabs Ltd last year, two inter-ministerial meetings were held to give motion to a stalled process of appointing over 200 new personnel, at least 100 of whom are boiler inspectors. A proposal was finalised by the industries ministry.

Mohammad Abdul Halim, the acting secretary of the industries ministry, admitted that the process of recruiting new personnel for the Office of the Chief Inspector of Boilers has been stalled for a long time. “But now we have finished the paperwork in respect of such recruitment. We hope to issue a new circular for the positions in that office within the next few months,” he said.

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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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